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Tue February 11, 2014
18 patients at Forsyth Medical Center Exposed to Rare, Deadly Brain Disease
Hospital officials are enacting a new sterilization procedure after 18 patients were exposed to a rare, deadly brain disease.
Novant Health says from January 18 until February 6 18 patients at Forsyth Medical Center were exposed to Creutzfeldt–Jakob Disease or CJD. It's a rare protein that causes brain cells to die.
All of these patients had neurological surgeries and the tools used in their procedures were also used on a patient who showed signs of having CJD.
Dr. Jim Lederer is a Novant Health infectious disease expert. "Our standard procedure is to apply an extra cleaning process (to surgical instruments) to prevent the possibility of spreading the disease to others. But they weren't."
According to Dr. Lederer, lab results from the patient's spinal fluid test returned to the hospital on February 6, confirmed the patient had a sporadic genetic mutation of the disease.
"Of 300 patients a year who have CJD, there has not been a transmission of the disease from surgical instruments to another patient since 1976," explains Dr. Lederer. "So we must be doing something right."
Also, CJD has been associated with mad cow disease, but Dr. Lederer emphasizes this strain is not.
Novant Health is now initiating a new sterilization policy to prevent this mistake from happening again.
"All surgical instruments for all brain surgeries will receive enhanced sterilization practices, higher temperatures to 273 degrees and longer durations to 18 minutes or greater to eradicate CJD," said Dr. Lederer.
The hospital spent the weekend notifying the patients who've been exposed. According to Dr. Lederer, it could take years or decades for symptoms to appear.