Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC announced they have contacted 18 recent neurosurgery patients who may have been exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a degenerative neurological disorder with no known cure.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a rare, fatal brain disease. CJD affects about one person in every one million people per year worldwide.
“While the Center for Disease Control categorizes such risks as ‘very low,’ any risk of transmission is simply unacceptable,” said Jeff Lindsay, President of Forsyth Medical Center. “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 [infected] 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 of Forsyth Medical Center. “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,” said Dr. Jim Lederer.
Forsyth Medical Center stated that the exposure occurred through improperly sterilized surgical instruments.
“I have a two-year-old to live for, and mommy might not be here,” said Amanda Morin, who underwent back surgery at Forsyth Medical Center. On Monday, a hospital staff member contacted her telling her that she is one of 18 patients who may have been exposed to the disease. “[Novant staff member] say that it’s not the hospital's fault but they are taking full responsibility.”
Novant Health stated that they will monitor the health of the 18 patients for any signs of the disease for the rest of their lives.