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There is a story at the DC Patient Advocate that a North Carolina hospital may have spread Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease:

According to CNN, Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina may have used instruments contaminated with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease on at least 18 neurosurgical patients.

Sometimes confused with “mad cow disease” the Centers for Disease Control states that CJD is a “neurodegenerative disorder with characteristic clinical and diagnostic features. This disease is rapidly progressive and always fatal. Infection with this disease leads to death usually within 1 year of onset of illness.”

The Charlotte Observer has reported on this story as well, noting that experts

say there hasn’t been a documented case of transmission from contaminated surgical instruments since the 1970s, when sterilization techniques were more primitive.

But there is still a risk. And that’s what Novant Health officials are now explaining to 18 patients and their families after apologizing Monday for exposing those patients to surgical instruments that had been used on a CJD patient at Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem.

“There’s no excuse for this. It should never have happened,” said Florence Kranitz, president of the Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Foundation in New York. “I know the hospital is apologizing. People are always tragically sorry for what happens.”

Early reported seem to indicate that the instruments were in fact sterilized, but were not subjected to “enhanced” sterilization:

[Officials] explained that a patient who had brain surgery Jan. 18 was later diagnosed with CJD, which affects about 1 in 1 million people each year worldwide. Although the instruments used in that operation were sterilized by the typical method, they were not subjected to “enhanced sterilization procedures” that should be used after treating a patient with CJD.

It appears that the hospital is doing everything it can to make this right, but obviously this is a very scary situation for those who have been exposed. What is really scary is that

the same thing happened three months ago at a New Hampshire hospital. And 19 other similar incidents have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since 1998.

We are all hoping that this is nothing more than a scary moment for these patients and that no one develops this deadly disease.

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