Eight patients, who underwent surgery at the Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire, have been exposed to a deadly brain disease called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The negligent exposure to the illness resulted from surgical equipment previously used on a patient suffering from Creutzfeldt-Jakob.
In May 2013, a patient was operated on at the Catholic Medical Center using equipment rented from the Minnesota-based firm, Medtronic. This past week, the doctors discovered that the patient is now suffering from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. An examination of the equipment has revealed that it is contaminated with tiny proteins, called prions, which transfer the disease from one person to another. This finding has come as dire news for eight patients that had surgeries between May and August with the use of the contaminated equipment.
A spokesperson for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has stated that experts who reviewed the situation have stated that the patients were exposed to the contamination, but that the risk of infection with the disease is extremely low. Because the experts could not conclude that there is no risk, the patients have been notified by the hospital and the HHS, and have been provided with information and support.
According to a doctor at the Catholic Medical Center, the contamination was not a result of serious negligence. The equipment was sterilized using all regular procedures, but the tiny prions that transfer the disease are not killed using the normal sterilization process. According to the doctor, sterilization designed to kill the prions would destroy the instruments, and is simply not practical.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a fatal illness with infected persons having approximately four months to live after diagnosis. Presently, there is no treatment and no cure for the disease. The disease can incubate for many years before erupting and presenting symptoms and eventually killing the infected person.
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