Eight people who may have been exposed to the fatal brain infection Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease this summer at a New Hampshire hospital have been contacted personally by the hospital's president, who says they aren't panicking.
Dr. Joseph Pepe of Catholic Medical Center called the patients Thursday a day after health officials announced they may have been exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob (CJD), an incurable brain disease characterized by rapidly progressive dementia which can cause death within months after symptoms first appear.
One expressed more concern the hospital or its surgeons would be harmed by the publicity over the incident, he said.
"They are all fine at this point, but I let them know that they can not only call my chief medical officer and the patient advocate ... but also myself, and we will stay with them as long as they need us," he said, adding that he apologized for causing them any anxiety.
Officials believe the extremely rare disease caused the August death of a patient who had brain surgery at the hospital in May, although the cause of death won't be certain until more tests are completed. If that patient had CJD, there's a small chance it was transmitted to other brain surgery patients because the abnormal proteins that cause the disease, called prions, can survive standard sterilization practices.
Health officials in Massachusetts said five patients in the state may have also been exposed to the fatal brain infection Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease because a specialized instrument used on the New Hampshire patient had been rented and reused at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis.