Specimens should be collected during the acute (early) phase of an illness (or within 2 to 3 days for viral infections), and before antibiotics are administered, if possible. Swabs generally are poor specimens if tissue or needle aspirates can be obtained. It is the microbiologist's responsibility to provide clinicians with a collection manual or instruction cards listing optimal specimen collection techniques and transport information. Information for the nursing staff and clinidans should include:
Instructions should be written, so spedmens collected by the patient (e.g., urine, sputum, or stool) are handled properly. Most urine or stool collection kits contain instructions in several languages, but nothing substitutes for a concise set of verbal instruc tions. Similarly, when distributing kits for sputum collection, the microbiologist should be able to explain to the patient the difference between spitting in a cup (saliva) and producing good lower respiratory secretions from a deep cough (sputum). General collection information is shown in Table 5-1. An in-depth discussion of each type of specimen is found in Part VU.
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