Health officials have confirmed that a patient who underwent neurosurgery at a New Hampshire hospital earlier this year had Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease.
The death, and suspicions that the patient may have had the devastating brain ailment, prompted authorities in two states to warn that as many as 13 patients may have been exposed to surgical equipment used during the patient's surgery, thus to the same disease.
The now-deceased patient had undergone neurosurgery at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester. The patient was later suspected of having sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare, rapidly progressing and always-fatal degenerative brain disease.
But by the time this diagnosis was suspected, equipment used in the patient's surgery had been used several other operations. This raised the possibility that the equipment might have been contaminated -- especially since normal sterilization procedures are not enough to get rid of the disease proteins, known as prions, tied to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease -- thus potentially exposing the other patients to infection.
The patient's death spurred the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services to announce September 4 that eight other patients at the same Manchester hospital were being monitored for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
Massachusetts health authorities noted the next day that five Cape Cod Hospital patients may have been exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease too because their surgeons this summer later used the same potentially contaminated medical equipment as in the New Hampshire facility.