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Contaminated Surgical Devices May Have Spread Rare Disease

A Georgia woman is suing Emory Healthcare for her exposure to contaminated surgical instruments, which may have infected her with Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease, the human form of mad cow disease. Tracy Price, a schoolteacher in Henry Country, Georgia was one of the many possibly affected patients to receive the startling news.

Emory University Hospital sent over 500 letters in October of 2004 to patients who had undergone surgery after the discovery of a brain biopsy patient who suffered from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

Of the patients notified, 98 had received brain and spinal surgeries and 418 had undergone other procedures, which may have exposed them to the same surgical devices used on the infected brain biopsy patient.

Hospital officials claim that though they have not had any reported cases of infection in the some 500 possible victims, they would have used heightened sterilization procedures had they been aware of the patient’s serious and contagious condition.

“There are no cases in the medical literature of CJD having been transmitted following the routine measures of surgical instrument sterilization that we employed,” commented hospital spokesman Ron Sauder.

He further states that, “As a major hospital with world-class specialists, we will continue to provide high-quality care for the many complex and challenging cases referred to us for diagnosis and treatment.”

Though the hospital is adamantly denying allegations of spreading the disease, there are no tests available to identify its presence in people before the onset of illness.

Symptoms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease may take years to develop and may be characterized by degenerative cognitive abilities including severe dementia.

While Price does not yet know if she has contracted the rare illness, her worries are consuming her life. “She worries whether or not she’ll be able to watch her children grow up and worries whether or not she’ll continually be able to be there for her children and her husband,” comments her attorney, Wayne Grant. “It was 100 percent avoidable.”

Records show that the last patients to be infected with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease from contaminated surgical devices occurred in 1976, when standards were not nearly as rigid as the current World Health Organization sterilization requirements.

Emory University Hospital officials claim that their sterilization standards have been at the most rigorous level since September 27, 2004.

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