Public Health Wales say they have contacted 38 patients who may have been put at risk of contracting Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) during surgery.
Letters have been sent to those at risk after it became apparent that a patient who underwent surgery in a hospital in the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Board area in 2007 was at high risk of the disease.
Health officials say that all surgical instruments used on the patient were removed from use when the patient’s history became known, and all patients operated on with the same instruments in the interim have now been informed.
Public Health Wales says that the risk of transmission of CJD from one patient to another via surgical instruments is extremely low. There have only ever been six cases worldwide of any form of CJD being transmitted in this way.
Dr Jörg Hoffmann, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control for Public Health Wales, said:
“In this incident, we do not have a single confirmed case of CJD. However, we do have one patient who was at high risk and 38 people at extremely low risk.
“We know that all the surgical instruments used on this group of patients were cleaned, disinfected and sterilised normally. However, it is possible that the proteins that cause CJD, known as prions, survived these routine sterilisation procedures so an extremely small risk of transmission remains.
“We have identified and written to all patients concerned to make them aware of the extremely low risk. They have been offered information and support and a helpline has been set up for anyone who has received a letter and has further questions.
“All patients at risk have been contacted and there is no risk to anybody else. People who have had any type of surgery in the Abertawe Bo Morgannwg Health Board area since 2007 but who have not been contacted by us have no reason at all to worry.”
CJD is a rare disease that affects the structures of the brain and causes incurable neurological symptoms. There is currently no treatment or cure for CJD.
Anyone who is aware they are at increased risk of CJD should not donate blood or organs and should always inform their surgeon or other health care professional before undergoing any health procedure.