The possibility of a high risk of contracting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) has been reported in Wales, after authorities discovered an at-risk patient two years after surgery.
The Abertawe Bro Morganwg University Health Board (ABMU) realized in 2009 that the patient who had gone through a surgery in 2007 was at risk of developing CJD, a rare and fatal progressive degenerative brain disease. In these two years, the instruments used in the surgery still contaminated by proteins that cause the disease, not destroyed by sterilization, would have been used in other surgical operations, spreading the risk to other patients.
Public Health Wales (PHW) has identified 38 patients who could now be facing the threat of the disease and has notified them.
Jorg Hoffman, consultant in communicable disease control, says, ''We know all the surgical instruments used on this group of patients were cleaned, disinfected and sterilised normally. However, it is possible that the proteins which cause CJD, known as prions, survived these routine sterilisation procedures so an extremely small risk of transmission remains.''
He is quick to point out that the surgeon who carried out the operation was unaware of the risk posed by the patient and so, no one can be blamed for the situation.
Although it is not known whether the 38 people involved have donated blood, carrying the risk further, Dr. Hoffman is again quick in his assurances that the likelihood of someone contracting CJD "from a contact of a contact" was highly unlikely.
"We do understand that it's very upsetting for the patients to live with this uncertainty for years to come," he added. "Our advice is they should carry on to live their lives as before."