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18 people reportedly exposed to incurable disease in N.C.

18 People Reportedly Exposed to Incurable Disease in N.C.

Eighteen people possibly exposed to a rare brain disease considered incurable and fatal - and it happened while they were being treated at a North Carolina hospital.


"Their surgeries were performed with instruments that were not properly sterilized, exposing them to a degenerative neurological disorder referred to as CJD." (Via KMBC)


Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease or CJD affects only one in every 1 million people worldwide and is fatal 100 percent of the time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The surgeries took place at Novnt Health Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. (Via Center for Disease Control)


The medical tools used to treat a patient who was positive for CJD were used on other patients over the course of three weeks. Now, those instruments were sterilized by the usual hospital standards, but the CDC recommends tools exposed to CJD be destroyed.


Hospital officials in Winston-Salem say the likelihood of these 18 patients actually contracting the disease are low. (Via WXIN)


According to CNN, "no cases of the disease have been linked to the use of contaminated medical equipment since 1976."


Fox News adds in the United States, "there have been only four reported cases of transmission via surgical instruments."


Whatever the odds, some patients are still understandably upset over the apparent mistake.


"I'm angry, very very angry that something so little could cost me my life." (Via Fox News)


What's worse, the disease reportedly could take years to show itself in a patient, so answers won't necessarily come anytime soon.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
soj77 February 11 2014 at 12:48 PM

Diane is right! "Normal" sterilization has no effect on CJD. This is a prion disease. However, new sterilization guidelines have been in place since 2010 (http://www.shea-online.org/assets/files/other_papers/prion.pdf), so I think a little "trashing" of healthcare might be understandable. Because prion diseases have the potential to make the Plaque look like the sniffles, ALL instruments which require sterilization should follow new protocols. Think dental instruments! Costly? Yes!!!! My father died of CJD-v in 1995... and an outbreak of prion disease would cripple our economy! Read the book, Deadly Feasts. I am sure the lawyers are there to collect, but they should also provide professional counsel from neuroligists on longterm care plans... I would want Durable Medical Power of Attorney, DNR's enforce before the dementia set in. Chatt999's comment about just being grateful to be alive? You have not lived with CJD. It is 100% fatal...a bad way to die. Dad finally died of aspiration pneumonia...the best we could do was to increase the end-morphine to q1hr to eliminate the sensation of drowning. We are more merciful to our animals than to humans.

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sdph1 February 11 2014 at 2:04 PM

No surprise I got an infection in a hospital. Place to avoid at all costs short of life and death situation!

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Janine February 11 2014 at 2:13 PM

this is unacceptable! Lost my Mother in law in 2009, Absolutely the worst. I feel for those exposed for the laziness of the professionals who absolutely should know better. Everything should have been destroyed! Thoughts and prayers to the patients and families who may be affected.

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senjav February 11 2014 at 2:31 PM

when you are working ona patient who you KNOW has a transmissable and incurable disease, why not use DISPOSABLE instruments. Sure, other patients might manifest a similar disease AFTER the fact; but when you KNOW the status. disposables makes sense. THis was very very badly managed health care.

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2 replies
jt2 senjav February 11 2014 at 2:44 PM

As an RN who worked in the OR for years, just to let you know, there are many disposable items in the OR but most instruments are not . However, the management in that OR should have know the recommendation for disposal of all items used on a patient with this disease. Then if they were unwilling to destroy the items they could have asked the surgeon to arrange for surgery in a facility that would comply. I feel badly for the patients that were exposed. No one should leave the hospital in worse shape than they enter.

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jdhegnes senjav February 11 2014 at 4:17 PM

Because some instruments are not available as disposables, and are very expensive. Also, there is absolutely nothing that cannot be sterilized off an instrument. It is simply a matter of temperature, time and medium.

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1 reply
pamiss45 jdhegnes February 11 2014 at 7:43 PM

You should look up CJD on the CDC. It very adamantly states that there is NO STERILIZATION technique for this prion disease. The only thing that can be done, if you are doing surgery on a patient with CJD, is to destroy all instruments used.

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mclaramc3 February 11 2014 at 2:41 PM

This should not have happened, every hospital is required to have a policy and procedure to manage these instruments. When hospitals are surveyed these policies are reviewed.
It is also part of the OR education with all staff.

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Connie February 11 2014 at 11:05 AM

There are sterilization procedures set in place with biological indicators that show when a batch of instruments has reached appropriate temperature to kill pathogens. However, if anyone has taken a microbiology class here would know why a disease such as CJD cannot be sterilized and destroyed. It is a prion, and a horrible thing to contract.

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2 replies
brenhatestwinkie Connie February 11 2014 at 11:20 AM

that is a understatement!

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ginab605 Connie February 11 2014 at 11:25 AM

Connie, I have never seen the sterilization aparatus, but wouldn't it wash away any remaining debris, dead or alive? Eeeew. I wonder where the floating prions went.....

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paddleman1928 February 11 2014 at 10:57 AM

before panic sets in-test the instruments to see if the organism is still present. If not the patients can rest easy.

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1 reply
Camp Bulldog paddleman1928 February 11 2014 at 11:15 AM

that was done

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d1anaw February 11 2014 at 10:55 AM

There is no excuse for this. Where is the joint commission and the medicare oversight? They are willing to blast other facilities for the smallest of infractions, but overlook something this serious? Are you kidding me?

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cynthia.js February 11 2014 at 10:33 AM

"there have been only four reported cases of transmission via surgical instruments."

...That's four too many.

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2 replies
lonordstrom cynthia.js February 11 2014 at 10:52 AM

Like you said, only 4, the trick to this is the key word, "REPORTED". In my mother's case, we were strongly encouraged to donate her brain to science after she died. When we agreed, the Dr. said I am glad you decided to do this, because I didn't want to make you do it. Her brain ended up going somewhere to be studied for the CDC. Her situation was not reported and as a family, we really do believe that she was a victim, also. She had had a brain surgery about 13 years before. This disease can only effect a person through eat bad meat, or the spore is directly entered into the brain or spinal fluid.

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d1anaw cynthia.js February 11 2014 at 10:59 AM

I agree. That's four too many. And there is really no legitimate excuse for it. Someone failed to follow proper proceedures.

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jea509 February 11 2014 at 10:22 AM

FYI. Nobody tells the funeral homes about this very dangerouse disease and if the funeral home does know. It will not take the proper CDC steps to prepare the body. Its too expensive. Any thing that touches body fluids or comes in contact , has to be incinerated, Instruments inicluding. Blood is supposed to collected in stainless steel cans and if the embalming table is exposed, It has to go as well.
It all goes down the drain and into the sewer, and if you think the sewage treatment plant will take care of it. You are 100% WRONG!!! Dont believe me. OK if you had a loved one who passed away and was embalmed. Ask to see there Hazmat disposal bill. A Dirty Little Secret!!!!!

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3 replies
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