EPSOM, N.H. (CBS) — Health officials say they’ve never seen anything like what Catholic Medical Center might be experiencing, where potentially contaminated medical equipment could spread a deadly brain disease.

The chances of getting Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease are one in a million but it’s a disease that resists standard sterilization practices.

One New Hampshire man has been reading about the disease since his sister’s death in 1999 and is still mystified by the unanswered questions.

Robert Blodgett has been keeping a three-inch binder full of articles alongside memories of his sister Shirley.

Shirley Cummings died after an eight week illness at the age of 63.

“Nobody knows where she got it,” Blodgett said. “That’s one of the puzzling things is that no one knows.”

CID affects the nervous system and causes rapid brain deterioration. It is almost always fatal.

Health officials say a successful brain surgery was performed at Catholic Medical Center in May but the patient returned last month with signs of rapidly progressing dementia.

Now, the hospital is concerned the equipment used in the surgery became contaminated.

Eight other patients who may have been exposed have been notified. Five others may have been exposed in other states when the equipment was used there.

“The risk is close to zero but it’s not zero so it was our decision to notify these patients,” Dr. Joseph Pepe said.

The patients exposed may not see symptoms for decades.

“What this means is your brain turns to a sponge,” Blodgett said. “I’m going to be fearful because what day do I start losing my mind or not being able to see, or losing weight?”


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