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18 people exposed to deadly brain infection in hospital

South Carolina patients and family members may be interested to learn that a hospital in North Carolina may have accidentally exposed 18 patients to a deadly brain disease. According to the report, the disease in question is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which causes dementia and could result in death very quickly.

The hospital reportedly may have had reasons to believe a patient had the disease when a brain surgery operation was conducted. Usually, the surgical equipment that is used on such patients goes through a special sterilization process that kills the prions that cause the disease. However, it appears that the tools were not properly sterilized before they were used on the 18 patients.

The hospital released a statement apologizing to the family members. They also stressed that the risk that any of the patients would develop the disorder is extremely limited. In fact, a report released in 2013 stated that only four people have ever contracted the disease through use of medical equipment and the last case was reported back in 1976.

This is not the first incident in which patients were exposed to CJD by hospital error. In 2011, a Georgia hospital also exposed 17 patients, with the result that the associated university ultimately settled with the families. In most cases where a scare was reported, it was unknown that the initial patient had CJD.

In cases where it is suspected or known that a person has a communicable and deadly disease, hospital staff have the responsibility of taking the proper safety measures to ensure that no other patient is put at risk. If another patient does contract the disease because the protocol was not followed, family members may be eligible to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital and the staff members responsible for following the procedures.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Hospital error may put patients at risk of incurable disease", Dave Paresh, February 12, 2014

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Furr & Henshaw
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