Surgery May Have Exposed Several Patients to CJD

Eight patients potentially were exposed through neurosurgical equipment "because the prion that causes sporadic CJD is not eradicated by the standard sterilization process mandated at hospitals," it stated, according to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services' announcement.

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, Catholic Medical Center, and the Manchester Health Department announced Sept. 4 that neurosurgery on a patient at Catholic Medical Center who is now suspected to have had Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) may have resulted in the exposure of eight other neurosurgery patients to that disease. The only way to diagnose CJD with certainty is through an autopsy, and this is currently under way at the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center, the department's announcement stated.

"This patient is believed to have sporadic CJD, meaning it happens spontaneously with no known cause. Sporadic CJD is not variant CJD, also known by the nickname 'mad cow disease,' which is transmitted by eating contaminated beef," it stated.

The other eight patients potentially were exposed through neurosurgical equipment "because the prion that causes sporadic CJD is not eradicated by the standard sterilization process mandated at hospitals," it stated, adding that CMC has notified all of these patients about their potential risk.

"The risk to these individuals is considered extremely low," said Dr. José Montero, director of Public Health at DHHS, "but after extensive expert discussion, we could not conclude that there was no risk, so we are taking the step of notifying the patients and providing them with as much information as we can. Our sympathies are with all of the patients and their families, as this may be a confusing and difficult situation."

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease affects about one in a million people each year worldwide. In the United States, about 200 people are diagnosed with it each year.There is no known treatment or cure. For more information about CJD, visit www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/cjd/ or the World Health Organization's www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs180/en/.

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