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Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Testing

Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Specimen Collection and Transport (Virology)

$40 per specimen submitted. Please reach out prior to sending if not a regular submitter.

Acceptable specimens: swabs (recommended), CSF, bone marrow, autopsy/biopsy tissue.

  1. Viral Transport Media (VTM)- available commercially. Some require refrigeration, others do not — check package insert. VTM tubes must include at least 1-2mL liquid media. No dry swabs will be accepted.
  2. Swab - Swab material should be synthetic (e.g. rayon, polyester, or Dacron.) Calcium alginate or charcoal-impregnated swabs should not be used, nor should wood-shafted swabs.
  3. Sterile containers and collection materials for urine, bone marrow or CSF specimens.
  4. Cold packs or dry ice.
  5. Insulated shipping boxes/containers with appropriate shipping labels.
  1. Be sure to properly label the specimen tube with at least the patient’s name and date of collection.
  2. Check the expiration date on the VTM tube to ensure product is acceptable and will continue to be acceptable once received at the IDOH Laboratory.
  3. After collection, all specimens should be stored at refrigerator temperature (2-8°C) until shipped. If longer storage is required, place specimens in a -70°C freezer (NEVER store, even temporarily, in a regular, -20°C freezer — this temperature will kill virus). Additionally, avoid freeze- thaw cycles, which is also lethal to viruses. Specimens must be received at lab within 5 days of collection if stored at refrigerated temperatures.
  4. Specimens should be submitted via LimsNet, the IDOH Labs electronic submission and results reporting system. To get a free LimsNet account established at your facility, call the help desk at (888) 535-0011 or 317-921-5506, or send an email to
  5. Special Instructions for Specimen Collection
    1. Lesion Swab: a vesicle or pustule should be unroofed using a sterile beveled hypodermic needle. Using a swab moistened with VTM, scrub the base of the opened lesion with sufficient vigor to ensure that the cells are collected on the swab. Place the swab in the VTM tube.
    2. Rectal Swab: insert swab 4-6 cm into rectum, and roll swab against mucosa. Place swab in VTM tube.
    3. CSF: Collect at least 2 ml, if possible.
    4. Bone Marrow: withdraw a sample of the liquid part of the bone marrow by inserting a hollow needle through an incision and on through the bone and into the bone marrow cavity of the iliac crest.
    5. Tissue: place a small amount of tissue specimen into the VTM tube. For large tissue specimens, place tissue into a sterile container and add VTM to prevent drying.
  1. Wrap the labeled specimen container with absorbent material and place in a biohazard specimen bag. Be sure to package each patient’s specimens individually to avoid cross-contamination.
  2. Place the LimsNet cover page/requisition form in the side pocket of the biohazard bag. Never place the form in with the specimen in case the specimen leaks during transit. If the specimen bag does not have 2 compartments, place the paperwork in a separate ziploc bag.
  3. Place the specimen(s) in a styrofoam container with sufficient cold packs to maintain 4°C during shipment. For swabs, or CSF, if needed, dry ice can also be used if the specimen is frozen and/or transport time may be longer than 24 hours.  If dry ice is used, do not form an airtight seal on the styrofoam container because dry ice releases carbon dioxide gas.
  4. Place the styrofoam container into a cardboard shipping box, close lid, and seal.
  5. Ship or transport by courier, the box compliant with DOT and IATA regulations (Category B UN3373).  Ship to:
  6. Indiana Department of Health Laboratories
    Virology Laboratory
    550 W. 16th Street, Suite B
    Indianapolis, IN 46202

TAT is 1-11 business days. Negative cultures are held for 10 days.
Test Referral: Isolates may be forwarded to the CDC for additional testing.