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5 Cape Cod Hospital patients possibly exposed to fatal brain disease, like New Hampshire cases

Five patients at Cape Cod Hospital may have been exposed to a rare, fatal brain disease as a result of spinal surgery performed with a potentially contaminated specialized instrument that also exposed patients at a New Hampshire hospital.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced Thursday afternoon that five patients have been identified as being at low risk for exposure to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The risk of exposure from the instrument was first identified by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services after neurosurgeons at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester used the device in May on a patient who was subsequently found to likely have the disease. Eight patients were possibly exposed at the New Hampshire hospital when they had brain surgery using the same instrument.


Standard sterilization procedures used before every operation do not protect against Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The surgical instrument was rented from Minneapolis-based Medtronic, which sent the same device used in New Hampshire to Cape Cod Hospital. The potential exposure in Massachusetts is limited to five Cape Cod Hospital patients, who received procedures between June and August. The risk to the Massachusetts patients is extremely low, because those patients underwent spinal surgery and not brain surgery, health officials said.

The five patients have been notified and counseled, and there is no risk to hospital staff or members of the public, officials said.

Liz Kowalczyk can be reached at kowalczyk@globe.com.