Five patients may have been exposed to fatal brain disease


16
September
2013

New York residents may be interested to learn about a disease that could be affecting east coast hospitals. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health believes that five people were potentially exposed to a fatal brain disease known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The possible exposure happened after all five of the patients underwent surgery with medical equipment that was used to operate on someone who had the disease.

As standard sterilization procedures are not sufficient to denature the proteins, called prions, that cause the disease, reusing the equipment even after sterilization may have been a medical error by the hospitals. However, even if patients were exposed to the brain disease, authorities believe their risk of developing it is low. Because all five of the patients underwent spinal cord surgery and not brain surgery, there is a smaller chance of infection. The announcement about the possible exposure happened the day after the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services announced the possible exposure of eight other patients.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been no outbreak of CJD linked to contaminated medical equipment in nearly 40 years. The disease is a degenerative neurological disorder that is thought to be caused by misfolded proteins, and it affects less than 400 people in the United States every year.

As this case shows, medical mistakes may lead to patients contracting infectious diseases, some of them very serious or fatal. If a patient has been infected due to a doctor error, they often choose to seek compensation for this malpractice. Compensation can help someone pay for the treatment that they will need as well as compensate for their loss of enjoyment of life.

Source: CNN, “Fatal brain disease potentially affects five people in Massachusetts“, Julia Lull, September 06, 2013

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