BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts Department of Health said yesterday that five patients in the state may have been exposed to a fatal brain disease from the same specialized surgical instrument used on a patient in New Hampshire.
The five patients had procedures this summer at Cape Cod Hospital and are believed to be at low risk because they had spinal procedures and not brain surgery, the health department said.
The DPH said the patients may have been exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, which is a brain disease characterized by rapidly progressive dementia that can cause death within months after the first symptoms. It has no treatment or cure.
Massachusetts officials said the five patients have been notified and counseled, and there is no risk to hospital staff or the general public.
New Hampshire officials announced Wednesday that eight people at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester may have been exposed there to the rare disease believed to have caused the death of a brain surgery patient. They said there’s a remote chance it was transmitted to other brain surgery patients because the abnormal proteins that cause the disease can survive standard sterilization practices. Officials said there might be exposures in other states because the instrument was rented.
About 200 cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are recorded annually in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health, with the vast majority occurring spontaneously. In fewer than 1 percent of cases, the disease is transmitted by exposure to brain or nervous system tissue, and there have been only four reported cases of transmission via surgical instruments.