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CNN reports that eighteen neurosurgery patients at a North Carolina hospital may have been exposed to the deadly Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) brain infection.   According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, CJD affects about one person in every 1 million people per year worldwide.  The deadly disorder causes failing memory, blindness, involuntary movement and coma, and kills 90% of patients within one year.

On January 18, an operation was performed on a patient with CJD symptoms who later tested positive for the illness. The original patient had neurological symptoms that could have been attributed to CJD or another brain disease.  Since there were reasons to suspect that this patient might have had CJD, extra precautions should have been taken, but were not.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the World Health Organization, recommends that surgical equipment used on CJD patients be destroyed or decontaminated through an intense disinfecting process.  Although CJD can be transferred through surgical equipment, hospital officials say the likelihood of these patients contracting the disease is very low.  The CDC corroborates that assessment.  It says that no cases of the disease have been linked to the use of contaminated medical equipment since 1976.

CJD is a rare, degenerative and fatal brain disorder, according to National Institute of Health. It’s characterized by rapid, progressive dementia. Initial symptoms can include problems with muscular coordination, personality changes including impaired memory and thinking; and impaired vision.

The hospital has since instituted the enhanced sterilization process on all surgical instruments used in brain surgery.

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