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Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease exposure possible for 18 patients

Colorado residents contemplating surgery may be interested in a recent announcement by Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center in North Carolina that a patient with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease had surgery for neurological problems at their facility on Jan. 18, 2013.

The hospital admitted that the equipment used in that surgery was not sterilized using techniques that are necessary for instruments exposed to this infective particle. Prions, the transmissible agent involved with CJD and other transmissible spongiform encephalopathies are not destroyed by normal sterilization. The prions, once in the body, are able to induce normal human prion proteins to fold in an abnormal manner, causing brain injury and eventual death.

CJD is an infectious disease that has a long incubation period. Neurological symptoms may become apparent years after infection. The symptoms include problems with memory and behavior as well as trouble with coordination. Deterioration of mental capacity leads to a coma and death. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the incidence is rare. However, 18 other patients who underwent neurosurgical procedures may have been exposed to the disease. A hospital spokesperson said the patients were informed of the situation. A similar scenario happened in New Hampshire when approximately eight patients were exposed to the disease last year.

Medical malpractice presumes two things: that care falls below the accepted standard and that as a result, someone is injured. In this case, the hospital representative said the sterilization standards specified for instruments possibly contaminated with the infectious agents were not used. Since disease may occur as a result of latent infection, the possibility of injury exists. An attorney may help individuals who believe errors were made during their medical care assess their situation, advising them about possible options.Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Prion Diseases."

Source: CBS, "N.C. Hospital: 18 patients may have been exposed to brain infection", Ryan Jaslow, February 11, 2014

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