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18 patients possibly exposed to deadly brain disease

A recent report revealed that a North Carolina hospital may have exposed 18 of its patients to a brain infection. The hospital, Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center, released a statement after a neurosurgery patient was diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is fatal.

CJD is a rare neurological disease that causes dementia and affects approximately 1 million people globally each year. Usually, those who suffer from the disorder have certain proteins, called prions, that become abnormal. While the disease can lead to death within months of the patient contracting the disorder, others may not show symptoms until years later.

The prions that cause the disease can be transferred from patient to patient through surgical equipment that is not properly sterilized, as is what happened in this case. The hospital stated that, even though the staff was aware that one of the patients may have possibly had CJD, the surgical equipment was not sterilized through enhanced procedures.

The hospital believes that up to 18 individuals underwent surgery with the equipment in question being used. However, the hospital also stressed that the risk of developing the disorder was remote. Even with the low risk, however, the family members were notified of the potential risk.

Those who are admitted as patients in a hospital expect the staff members to provide safe care. However, doctor negligence and surgical errors can occur even in the most prestigious hospitals. If someone is exposed to a potentially dangerous or deadly disease while he or she is a patient, that person or his or her family members may be eligible to seek compensation that covers extended care costs, loss of income and even pain and suffering that resulted directly from the incident.

Source: CBS News, "N.C. Hospital: 18 patients may have been exposed to brain infection", Ryan Jaslow, February 13, 2014

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