S.C. Hospital Notifies 11 of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Risk

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  • August 9, 2012
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Imagine coming home from the hospital after having brain surgery only to find out you may have been infected with a deadly disease.
Here’s how I imagine that conversation would go:
Hospital: “Dear Mr. Doe, we regretfully inform you that you may have been exposed to a fatal disease during your hospital stay.”
Patient: “Say what?”
Hospital: “Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Mr. Doe. You may have been infected with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.”
Patient: “What the heck is that?”
Indeed. I found myself asking the same question.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is a human prion disease, a neurodegenerative disorder. Once the disease manifests, it progresses rapidly and is always fatal. Aside from death, dementia is the only symptom.
Hospital: “The good news, Mr. Doe, is that the disease has an exceptionally long incubation period, possibly 50 years. You’ll probably die of natural causes before the disease takes hold.”
Patient: “Oh, well, that’s a relief.”
I’m sure the folks at Greenville Hospital System in South Carolina went into much more detail with the 11 surgical patients they had to contact. They probably explained that contracting this disease is very rare, but an outbreak can occur from neurosurgical instrument contamination.
The CDC recommends special sterilization of exposed instruments to prevent contamination, but in this particular case, the contamination wasn’t known until after the instruments had been sterilized using standard methods and then reused, according to a FierceHealthcare report.
CJD is reported with ICD-9-CM diagnosis code 046.19 Other and unspecified Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease with or without dementia. However, the only way to diagnose the condition is through a biopsy, according to Greenville News.
Hospital: “Would you like to come into the hospital for a brain biopsy to determine whether you have CJD, Mr. Doe?”
Patient: “Um, no thanks.”

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  1. Dr. Vino C. Mody Jr. says:

    Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease is a devastating condition resulting in brain and neurological problems slowly progressive deteriorating into death. Coverage of this topic is important for development of cures for this condition.