Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease: Greenville Hospital System Warning 11 Brain Surgery Patients Of Possible Exposure

07/31/2012 06:12 pm ET

Eleven people who underwent brain surgery at a South Carolina hospital earlier this year are being warned that they may have been exposed to a deadly neurodegenerative disorder called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, according to news reports.

Reuters reported that a brain surgery patient in February at Greenville Hospital System was later found to have the extremely fatal brain disease. However, before this discovery was made, the same surgical tools were used on 11 other brain surgery patients, though the tools had been sterilized.

But the Associated Press reported that if the tools had been in contact with a patient with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, they would require extra sterilization.

"This is a very unusual event. After a full assessment and discussion with the CDC, we believe the risk of transmission of Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease to any patient is extremely small. We also value transparency and thus notified all patients who could be affected by this potential exposure," said Dr. Thomas Diller, the vice president of quality and patient safety of the hospital, in a statement obtained by the Associated Press.

"This is ridiculous," Eduardo Faza, whose wife was one of the notified brain surgery patients, told WYFF 4. "You go to the hospital for one thing and now you gotta worry about the other."

Classic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is not the same thing as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease -- they are both prion diseases, but only the variant form is linked with mad cow disease. Classic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease often occurs just on its own, with about one case occurring for every million people each year in the U.S., according to the CDC. The risk of this form increases as people get older. There is no cure for Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, and having it always leads to death. (For more about the condition, click here.)

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