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NC hospital apologizes for exposure to rare disease

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Eighteen patients at Forsyth Medical Center may have been exposed to a rare neurological disease. Eighteen patients at Forsyth Medical Center may have been exposed to a rare neurological disease.
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -

A Winston-Salem hospital apologized Monday after improper sterilization exposed nearly 20 patients to a rare neurological disease.

Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center President Jeff Lindsay told a news conference that 18 patients may have been exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. A neurosurgical procedure was done on Jan. 18 on a patient who was later confirmed to have the disease, a degenerative fatal brain disorder.

The other 18 patients, all neurosurgical patients, were exposed to surgical equipment that had been cleaned using a typical sterilization procedures, but not the enhanced sterilization procedures used for Creutzfeldt-Jakob.

Novant vice president for clinical development Dr. Jim Lederer said the operation was performed on a patient that was suspected and later confirmed to have sporadic CJD. While CJD has been associated with mad cow disease, Lederer emphasized this particular strain isn't mad cow.

There's no known cure for CJD, which can lead to death in some cases. It could take years if not decades for other symptoms to show up.

"We recognize that the risk to the patients is very small," Lindsay said. "However, we take any potential exposure seriously."

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