Fairly deep into this story on Cleveland.com about a possible theft of some plague vials from a lab (scary enough) comes this, about obtaining and moving human pathogens, pre-9/11:
- Members of Congress also were shocked to learn that those who moved potentially deadly biological "select agents" from place to place didn't have to report the transfers.
Researchers were known to swap the stuff at scientific meetings. Flying back from fieldwork, they packed petri dishes and test tubes of it in their suitcases or carried it in their clothing. Sometimes they taped samples to their bodies to keep the germs at their preferred temperature.
There was even a humorous name for the technique - traveling "VIP," or "vials in pocket."
No one meant to be cavalier. The researchers genuinely believed that personally transporting samples was the safest way to go. It kept the material out of the hands of careless or nefarious shippers, and - contrary to public perception - posed little risk to fellow passengers.
I'm going to have to tune in for the next installment in this series: It's fascinating, and frightening.