Eighteen patients at a North Carolina hospital were exposed to a deadly and incurable disease, Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center announced Monday.
The patients, who all received various neurosurgery procedures, were operated on with instruments that may have been tainted with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare degenerative neurological disorder.
“Today we are reaching out to 18 neurosurgery patients who were exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease over the last three weeks at Forsyth Medical Center,” said Jeff Lindsay, President of Forsyth Medical Center.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or CJD, is a degenerative brain disorder affecting one in a million people worldwide. It is always fatal.
Lindsay said that the patients’ risk of transmission was “very low,” but promised that the hospital would provide “support to patients and their families.” Novant Health will monitor the 18 patients for their entire lives.
The exposure came about when doctors operated a patient who they later learned had the sporadic CJD. While the surgical instruments were sterilized per standard hospital procedure, they should have been more thoroughly sanitized through high-heat methods to rid them of any lurking disease germs.
What’s more, the patients will not know if they have disease until symptoms develop—which will take 20 or 30 years. Onset of CJD usually occurs around the age of 60, and patients typically die within four months, according to Reuters.
“I have a two year old to live for and mommy might not be here,” one exposed patient, Amanda Morin, told Fox as she fought back tears.
Morin had back surgery at the hospital last month. Everything went fine, she says, until she got a call from a hospital staff member Monday telling her she may have been exposed to the deadly disease.
“I am angry; very, very angry something so little could cost me my life. I want grandkids; I want to be there for them,” Morin said.