By Richard Valdmanis
BOSTON, Sept 6 Connecticut said on Friday that
two patients who recently underwent surgery at a VA Hospital may
have been exposed to a rare brain disease, adding to 13 people
already reported at risk in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
The potential for exposure is believed to be the result of
doctors using the same surgical instruments on several different
patients. Those instruments were initially used on a New
Hampshire patient, who has since died. That patient is now
believed to have had a sporadic form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob
disease, a condition similar to "mad cow" disease but not linked
to beef consumption.
Health officials have said that the normal cleaning
procedures for surgical instruments used at hospitals reduce,
but do not eradicate, the microscopic protein that causes CJD.
"On 8-29, 2013, the New Hampshire Department of Health
notified the Connecticut Department of Public Health that two
patients treated at the VA Hospital in West Haven may have been
exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease," William Gerrish, a
spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Public Health, said
in an email to Reuters.
"The risk of transmission of CJD to the two patients at the
VA is considered very low. The general public and any other
patients at the VA Hospital and their employees are not at any
risk," he said.
A New Hampshire health department spokeswoman, Kris Neilsen,
said earlier on Friday that a fourth state may also be
investigating possible exposure to patients, but she declined to
name that state.
The Centers for Disease Control said in an emailed statement
that it was in contact with the state health department in New
Hampshire and the hospital to evaluate the situation. An
official at the Food and Drug Administration was not immediately
A spokeswoman for medical supply company Medtronic Inc
confirmed that its instruments were used in some of the
cases, but not all.
The scare began after a neurosurgery patient at a hospital
in Manchester, New Hampshire, died recently bearing symptoms of
An autopsy to determine if CJD was present in the patient is
being conducted, with results expected in about four weeks, said
Neilsen, the New Hampshire health department spokeswoman.
There is no treatment or screening test for the disease,
which has symptoms including failing memory, personality
changes, blindness and sudden jerky movements. It normally kills
in a matter of months.
Officials in Massachusetts and New Hampshire said all 15
patients who may have been exposed there have been notified.