Officials at the Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina have announced the possibility of the exposure of a dangerous brain disease to 18 neurosurgery patients due to the use of equipment that wasn't properly sterilized.
“Today we are reaching out to 18 neurosurgery patients who were exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease over the last three weeks at Forsyth Medical Center,” said Jeff Lindsay, President of Forsyth Medical Center. “While the CDC categorizes such risks as “very low,” any risk of transmission is simply unacceptable. On behalf of the entire team, I apologize to the patients and their families for this anxiety. We are committed to providing support to patients and their families.”
The disease, called Creutzfeldt-Jakob, is incurable and can cause impaired vision, dementia, and issues with the muscles and coordination. Doctors say the surgery was performed on a patient who had symptoms of the disease in January and later tested positive for it; the instruments used in the surgery were sterilized, but not by typical hospital standards when dealing with CJD.
“The patient had sporadic CJD. This is important to note, because it is often incorrectly associated with mad cow disease. It is not,” said Dr. Jim Lederer. "On January 18, an operation was performed on a patient with symptoms that could have been attributed to CJD. There were reasons to suspect this patient may have CJD. As such, extra precautions to clean equipment should have been taken but it was not."
Unfortunately for the 18 people who are at risk, there is not a fast-acting test for the disease; doctors say in some cases, it may take years to detect.
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