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CJD risk to 38 patients in Wales following surgery

View profile for Judith Thomas-Whittingham
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Thirty eight patients have been contacted by Public Health Wales after it emerged that they were put at risk of contracting Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) during surgery in the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Board area.
CJD is a rare (usually fatal) brain disease that causes degeneration of nervous tissues, for example in the brain and spinal cord. It is usually caused by an unidentified slow virus; characterized by progressive dementia and gradual loss of muscle control.
A patient who underwent surgery in 2007 was at high risk of CJD when operated on, however, at the time of surgery the hospital were unaware of his history. Therefore, subsequent patients were operated on with the same surgical instruments.
The patient returned for a further operation in 2009 and his history became known. All surgical instruments were removed from use at this time.
Fortunately, to date, the high-risk patient remains well and no cases of the disease have been reported by the 38 patients.
Dr Jörg Hoffmann, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control for Public Health Wales, said: “We know that all the surgical instruments used on this group of patients were cleaned, disinfected and sterilised normally. However, it is possible that the proteins that cause CJD, known as prions, survived these routine sterilisation procedures so an extremely small risk of transmission remains”.
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