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News Americas

Currently, CJD can not be treated or cured. (Photo: Triff/Shutterstock)
Sep 19, 2013 | News Americas

Neurosurgery patients possibly exposed to Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease

by Surgical Tribune

MANCHESTER, N.H., USA: Neurosurgery performed on a patient at the Catholic Medical Center (CMC) in Manchester may have resulted in the exposure of eight other patients to Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD). The patient, who has since passed away, is believed to have carried sporadic CJD.

The only way to diagnose CJD with certainty is through autopsy, which is currently underway at the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center, the CMC announced in a press release. However, it will take several weeks until a diagnosis can be confirmed.

Eight patients, who also underwent neurosurgery, were potentially exposed through surgical equipment because the prion, a rare type of protein that causes sporadic CJD, is not eradicated by the standard sterilization process mandated at hospitals. CMC has notified all of these patients about their potential risk. The general public and any other patients at CMC and their employees are not at any risk.

"The risk to these individuals is considered extremely low," said Dr. José Montero, director of public health at the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, "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."

CJD is a rare and fatal disease that affects the nervous system and causes deterioration of the brain. It affects about one in a million people each year worldwide. In the USA, only about 200 people are diagnosed with CJD each year.

"Our concern is with the health and well-being of the eight patients who may have been exposed to CJD," said Dr. Joseph Pepe, president and CEO of CMC. "We will work closely with these families to help them in any way possible, even though the risk of infection is extremely low."

In the early stages of CJD, the patient may have rapidly failing memory and other cognitive difficulties. These symptoms become worse much faster than with other more common types of dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease. Other symptoms can include personality changes, including anxiety and depression, lack of coordination, and visual disturbances. As the illness progresses, mental deterioration becomes pronounced and involuntary movements, such as sudden jerky movements, blindness, weakness of extremities, and coma may occur. There is no treatment or cure.

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