New Hampshire patient dies from suspected Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, others may have been exposed
Health officials in New Hampshire have announced that a neurosurgery patient that has died is suspected to have had the prion disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), and warn that at least eight other patients may have also been exposed to lethal disease.
The patient, who had the surgery at the Catholic Medical Center (CMC) in Manchester, is to have an autopsy at the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center to confirm the diagnosis.
According to The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the patient is believed to have sporadic CJD, meaning it happens spontaneously with no known cause.
Health officials note that this is not the same as variant CJD, also known by the nickname “mad cow disease,” which is transmitted by eating contaminated beef.
According to health officials, the 8 patients were potentially exposed through neurosurgical equipment, because the prion 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 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.”
According to the Associated Press, Dr. Joseph Pepe, president of CMC, said officials are 95 percent certain that a patient who had brain surgery in May and died in August had sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.
“Our concern is with the health and well-being of the eight patients who may have been exposed to CJD,” says Dr. Pepe, ”We will work closely with these families to help them in any way possible, even though the risk of infection is extremely low.”
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (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 United States, only about 200 people are diagnosed with CJD each year.
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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