Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a fatal disorder that affects the central nervous system, and occurs in one out of one million people worldwide every year. CJD is commonly known as “mad-cow disease.” (Mad-cow disease is actually a variant form of CJD, associated with eating tainted beef.) In May of 2013, a patient who may have had CJD underwent brain surgery at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire (NH). This patient is believed to have had the spontaneous form of CJD, which may occur without eating contaminated beef.
Surgical equipment is often rented and used in multiple states. The standard methods used by hospitals to sterilize surgical equipment do not eliminate the infectious organism that causes spontaneous, or sporadic, CJD. As a result, as many as eight patients in NH and five patients in other states may have been exposed to the condition through contaminated equipment that had been used during surgery on the patient in question. The only way to diagnose CJD with absolute certainty is to perform an autopsy. The autopsy is being performed by the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center, and the results should be released in approximately four weeks.
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