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Arbovirus Testing

Human arboviral infections may occur from exposure to infected mosquitos or ticks. Symptoms range from mild to severe. Mild cases may be asymptomatic or include a slight fever and/or headache, body aches, joint pains, diarrhea, or rash.  More severe symptoms may include vomiting, severe pain, and serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding membranes) with headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures, or paralysis.

The Viral Encephalitis Laboratory offers molecular assays on human specimens for acute arboviral infections, to assist health care providers with early diagnosis and to assist public health with emergency vector control programs.  Samples may include specimens from human cases who may not necessarily exhibit inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system. Insect and animal arbovirus testing is performed by the Arbovirus Laboratory-not the Viral Encephalitis Laboratory. Contact the Arbovirus Laboratory Director at (518) 485-6632 prior to sending samples. 

Specimen Submission to the Viral Encephalitis Laboratory

Specimens shipped through the US Postal Service should be sent to the first address listed at the right, while those shipped through UPS, Fed Ex, or other commercial courier services should be sent to the second address listed.

Laboratory Requirements for PCR Tests

  • Specimens
    • Collect 5 - 10 ml blood in a serum separator tube. Separate and freeze or refrigerate 3 - 5 ml serum.
    • A minimum of 1 ml CSF (frozen at -70°C, no preservatives), please consult the laboratory regarding tests on smaller volumes.
    • Testing of brain tissue may be performed under special circumstances, but must be fresh frozen (-70°C, no preservatives) not formalin fixed or paraffin embedded. Submitter should contact the VEL Director prior to submitting this specimen. 
  • A complete Infectious Diseases Requisition Form must accompany each specimen.
    • This form may be filled out by hand or electronically and printed. You may also complete the Remote Order Requisition.
  • Shipping
    • It is the shipper's responsibility to ensure that appropriate shipping materials are used with regard to safety and transportation regulations, and to ensure that the specimen is still frozen or cold on arrival at the laboratory. Please contact your carrier for shipping and packaging information. Patient specimens must be shipped as "Diagnostic Specimens".
    • Specimens should only be shipped Sunday-Thursday "Priority Overnight" so that appropriate laboratory personnel can be present to receive and accession specimens Monday-Friday.
    • Specimens may also be hand couriered.
    • CSF specimens must be shipped frozen on dry ice (minimum weight 2 kg or 5 lbs of dry ice).
    • Serum specimen can be shipped frozen on dry ice or refrigerated on cold packs.

Laboratory Requirements for Arbovirus Serology, Acute and Convalescent Serum 

The acute serum may be submitted with CSF specimen(s) for PCR testing. If no CSF is being sent, the same procedure should be followed.

  • Collect acute specimens at the onset of symptoms. 
  • Obtain blood specimens (red top/SST or equivalent tube) aseptically using approved venipuncture techniques by qualified personnel.
  • Allow specimens to clot at room temperature and then centrifuge.
  • Transfer to screw-top, plastic tubes and store at 2 - 8°C before shipment.
  • Submit frozen serum with PCR specimen(s) to the Viral Encephalitis Laboratory.
  • A completed Infectious Diseases Requisition Form indicating the serum specimen collection date must be submitted for each specimen.

Obtain a convalescent specimen two to four weeks after the acute specimen's collection date.  Paired specimens will be tested together.

  • Obtain blood specimens (red top/SST or equivalent tube) aseptically using approved venipuncture techniques by qualified personnel.
  • Allow specimens to clot at room temperature and then centrifuge.
  • Transfer to screw-top, plastic tubes and store at 2-8°C before shipment.
  • A completed Infectious Diseases Requisition Form indicating the collection date of the current serum must be submitted for each specimen.
  • Shipping: Serum specimens can be sent on cold packs directly to: Diagnostic Immunology Laboratory, New York State Department of Health, David Axelrod Institute, 120 New Scotland Avenue, Albany, NY 12208

For questions on serology other than rabies please contact the Diagnostic Immunology Laboratory at (518) 486-3845. A printable version of Collection and Submission Instructions for Viral Encephalitis Testing is also available.