• Autopsy confirms rare brain disease in NH patient


    MANCHESTER, N.H. (MyFoxBoston.com) -- New Hampshire health officials announced Friday the results of an autopsy confirmed the presence of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in a patient treated at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester.

    Earlier this month, health officials notified neurosurgery patients who may have been exposed to the rare and fatal brain disease through potentially contaminated neurosurgical equipment. Officials believe the same device was used on the patient who died following brain surgery at the center in May.

    Eight patients who were potentially exposed to the disease were notified about the autopsy results Friday.

    "Though we are not surprised by the test results," said Dr. José Montero, Director of Public Health at DHHS, "We are saddened by the toll this disease takes on families and our sympathies go out to all those affected."

    Catholic Medical Center's President, Dr. Joseph Pepe, previously said that nearly 90 percent of cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease happen spontaneously, when an agent causes proteins in the brain to incorrectly fold. And because those abnormal proteins can survive standard sterilization practices, there is a small risk of exposure for those who had surgery after the patient who died.

    On Sept. 5, the Massachusetts Dept. of Health said it identified five Cape Cod Hospital patients as "low risk" for exposure to the disease. They said the same device used on the patients, who underwent spinal surgery, may have also been used on the patient in Manchester. Their risk of CJD was "extremely low."

    CJD is a rare and fatal disease that affects the nervous system and causes deterioration of the brain. About 200 people are diagnosed with it in the United States every year.

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