José Montero, the director of public health at the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Service.has expressed the agency’s “sympathies” to eight brain surgery patients and their families after it was learned that they may have been exposed to the rare, but fatal Creutzfeld-Jakob disease following the death of a patient at Catholic medical Center in Concord died from it last month.
Additional warnings have been issued to five other brain surgery patients in different states. However, it was stressed that “there is no risk to other patients and employees at the Concord hospital or to the public.”
Often referred to a a human form of mad cow disease, Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (CJD) is a degenerative neurological disorder caused by the progressive dying of the brain's nerve cells, in which the brain tissue develops holes and becomes sponge-like in texture.
Characterized by rapidly progressing dementia, leading to memory loss, personality changes and hallucinations, CDJ symptoms also include anxiety, depression, paranoia, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and psychosis. Physical symptoms accompanying these are generally loss of balance and coordination, speech impediments, rigid posutre, jerky movements and, seizures. There is no cure.
Most victims die six months, although it has been reported that approximately 15% of patients survive two or more years. In rare cases, others have been known to survive as long as 4-5 years.
According to hospital president Dr. Joseph Pepe, 8 of the patients may have been exposed to the disease through contaminated surgical equipment, although he stressed that “the chance it was transmitted to them is remote.” It was also revealed that some of the equipment was rented, but that all the instruments have been quarantined. Apparently, the abnormal protein that causes the disease cannot be killed by standard sterilization procedures.