Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a degenerative and fatal neurological disorder. On Monday, officials with the Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, admitted that 18 surgery patients may have been exposed to the devastating disease.
Hospital representatives said a patient diagnosed with the fatal disease received an operation on January 18. Although the medical instruments were sterilized, the process may have been inadequate. Officials said the instruments required an enhanced sterilization procedure, which was never performed.
Forsyth President Jeff Lindsay issued an official statement, indicating that the improperly sterilized instruments were eventually used in 18 surgeries. According to the Lindsay, the instruments were used to perform neurological surgeries throughout the last three weeks.
As reported by Fox 8 News, the hospital will monitor the patients who may have been exposed. As the symptoms may appear at any time, the patients will have to be monitored for the rest of their lives. In most patients, the symptoms begin to appear at around age 60.
Early symptoms may include memory loss, marked changes in personality, visual disturbances, and loss of coordination. In later stages, the disease causes increased memory loss, involuntary tics or movements, and weakness. Many patients eventually go blind and slip into a coma.
Once symptoms appear, the disease progresses quickly, leading to death within one year.
Dr. Jim Lederer said the possibility of contamination are “very, very low.” However, according to the CDC, standard sterilization procedures are simply not enough to inactivate Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. In 1976, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention partnered with the World Health Organization to standardize the enhanced procedures.
The enhanced sterilization, which is required in cases of suspected Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, includes both chemical and heat sterilization. In confirmed cases, the CDC recommends destroying the instruments.
Representatives with Forsyth Medical Center said the initial patient was suspected to have the disease. However, it was confirmed after the surgery was performed.
Kevin Howell, with The Department of Health and Human Services, said the department “will continue to closely monitor the situation.” He said the “primary concern is the health, safety, and welfare, of patients.”
As reported by Opposing Views, Amanda Morin is one of the patients who was exposed. Morin had a recent back surgery at the hospital. Although there were no complications and she has recovered well, Morin was informed that she may have been exposed to the fatal disease:
“I have a two year old to live for and mommy might not be here… I am angry; very, very angry something so little could cost me my life. I want grandkids; I want to be there for them.”
Morin and the others will have to worry about the disorder for the rest of their lives. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease can lie dormant for decades and there is no cure.
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