|By Richard Craver, Winston-Salem Journal, N.C.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
DHHS is "in close contact" with Novant "to insure that the appropriate actions are being taken with regards to steps necessary to prevent future exposures," Howell said.
Forsyth officials said Monday that up to 18 patients may have been exposed to the disease, a rare but fatal degenerative brain disorder. The center said a neurosurgical procedure was performed on a patient
The other 18 patients were exposed
Lederer said patients were identified through tracing when the equipment was used during the 19-day period.
Although Lederer said the exposure risk to the other 18 patients "is very low," he added the hospital "realizes this is devastating news" to have to provide to those patients and their families.
Mayer said privacy laws "prevent us from talking about a patient's specific treatment," including how hospital officials determined that the patient had the disease. Officials have not identified where the patients live.
Looze did not say whether Forsyth and Novant are facing potential sanctions because of the exposure.
The disease affects one in 1 million patients worldwide annually, or about 300 Americans a year, and has no known cause or treatment. Symptoms in some instances may not appear for years, if not decades.
However, death typically occurs within a few weeks to four months of symptoms arising, according to Novant and the
Less than 1 percent of cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are acquired through iatrogenic and variant exposure.
Among the iatrogenic risks are contaminated surgical instruments, dura mater transplant, corneal transplant and human growth hormone. The variant risks can come from eating contaminated beef or being exposed to contaminated blood or a blood plasma transfusion.
The last confirmed case of a transmission though surgical instruments occurred in 1976. Novant said there have been only four confirmed cases of such transmission in the world.
The sporadic version of the disease accounts for 85 percent of the annual cases, including the Forsyth patient who has been identified with the disease. A hereditary version accounts for about 14 percent.
The hospital said the exposure occurred this way: The specialized surgical equipment used on the patient with the disease was cleaned through a typical sterilization procedure, but did not receive the enhanced sterilization procedures required for Creutzfeldt-Jakob.