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Cape Cod Hospital Patients May Have Been Exposed To Deadly Brain Disease

By Beth Germano, WBZ-TV
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WBZ-TV's Beth Germano Beth Germano
Emmy award-winning Beth Germano is a general assignment reporter fo...
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HYANNIS (CBS) – Five patients at Cape Cod Hospital may have been exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease or CJD, a rare and fatal brain disease. Instruments used in their surgeries between June and August came from the same New Hampshire hospital where a patient died most likely from CJD, though an autopsy is still being performed.

Just yesterday, public health officials in New Hampshire announced that eight patients at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester were informed of potential exposure from the patient who had brain surgery in June, but returned to CMC last month with rapidly progressing dementia.

“The instruments were so specialized, they were carefully tracked, we know exactly where they went and know which patients on whom they were used,” said Dr. Al DeMaria of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Because of that, he says no other Massachusetts hospital would have used them.

The instruments in these neurosurgeries are rented by hospitals and were first used on the deceased patient at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester before making their way to Massachusetts, no one knowing at the time of surgery the patient likely had CJD. But even at Cape Cod, officials insist the risk is low. “It was not brain surgery it was spine surgery,” said DeMaria. “Not direct contact with the central nervous system.”

Officials say a hospital in one other unidentified state also used these instruments, that if contaminated with CJD, do not respond well to standard sterilization procedures. The instruments have been quarantined in New Hampshire until an autopsy is complete on the first patient to confirm the likely diagnosis.

Already, some of the those potentially exposed are seeking legal advice. McGrath Law Firm of Concord, New Hampshire says it has been contacted by some family members.

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