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8 Patients At Risk After Possible Exposure to Fatal Brain Disease

Update Date: Sep 05, 2013 12:06 PM EDT

According to a New Hampshire hospital, eight brain-surgery patients might be at risk for a rare brain disease that is similar to "mad cow." The state officials had announced the possibility of the exposure yesterday and have since been monitoring the situation.

Based from the report, health officials stated that a patient, who had brain surgery in May and died in August, might have had CJD, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Confirmation tests are currently being done at the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center. While the autopsy is underway, officials believe that the surgical equipment used on this patient at the Catholic Medical Center in Concord, NH was improperly sterilized. The equipment was then used on eight other brain surgery patients. Although CJD is not the same as "mad cow," it is still a very fatal brain disease. CJD occurs randomly and researchers have not identified a cause for it. The officials believe that the exposure risk is low, but they are taking precautionary measures.

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

According to the officials, CJD could have been transferred when the disease-causing prion, which is an abnormal protein, was not killed effectively during the standard hospital sterilization process. The prion causes the brain to deteriorate, often resulting in death within one year of the infection. Symptoms include rapid mental deterioration in which the patient might experience personality changes, depression, anxiety, memory loss, blurred vision, insomnia, impaired thinking, difficulty speaking and random, jerky movements. The equipment has since been quarantined.

CDJ afflicts around one in a million people. There are about 200 cases confirmed each year within the United Sates. 

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