- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) - Eighteen patients at a North Carolina hospital may have been exposed to a rare neurological disease after surgical equipment wasn’t properly sterilized, officials said.

Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem apologized for the exposure. President Jeff Lindsay told a news conference Monday 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 18 patients neurosurgical patients were exposed to surgical equipment that had been cleaned using typical sterilization procedures, but not the enhanced sterilization procedures used for Creutzfeldt-Jakob.

The patient was confirmed to have sporadic CJD, which has been associated with mad cow disease. But this particular strain isn’t mad cow disease, said Dr. Jim Lederer, Novant’s vice president for clinical development.

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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