TIME medicine

Nearly 20 Patients Exposed To Fatal Brain Disease

The cause might have been improper sterilization of surgical tools

Almost 20 neurological patients in North Carolina may have been exposed to an incurable and degenerative brain disease while undergoing surgery because surgical instruments were insufficiently sterilized, Reuters reports.

Surgeons at the Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem operated on 18 patients using surgical equipment that had not been sufficiently sterilized after they were used on a patient who tested positive for Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), the hospital said in a statement.

CJD kills 90 percent of patients within one year and causes failing memory, blindness, and coma, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

About 200 cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are recorded annually in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. Just last year, at least 15 patients in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire may have been exposed to the disease in similar cases tied to unsanitary surgical instruments, health officials said.


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