'CJD just wasn't on the radar' for infected patient
THE patient at the centre of the Beaumont Hospital CJD scare presented with such unusual symptoms that the possibility that they had the fatal degenerative disease "just wasn't on the radar", according to a senior health service source.
There are fears that up to 20 patients could have been exposed to Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease after instruments used to operate on the patient were used in subsequent surgeries at the Dublin hospital.
It was only established that the patient had CJD after a routine biopsy was examined by what health authorities described as "an observant pathologist".
The HSE last night confirmed that all affected patients or their families have been contacted to warn them of the risk of infection, which experts have stressed is very low.
The patients were last night coming to terms with the news that they will require monitoring for the rest of their lives.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny described the health scare as "a serious matter", saying it is "a difficult time for the patient and for the family of the person who has been diagnosed as suffering from CJD".
He said that the risk of transmission to other patients "however small, has got to be assessed".
The health service source told the Irish Independent that the usual signs of CJD, such as rapidly progressive dementia, were not present in the infected patient, who is understood to be in their 30s.
"It was a very unusual presentation and nobody in their wildest dreams would have thought that this was a presentation of CJD. It just wasn't on the radar. It's just one of those unfortunate events."
Normal sterilisation procedures for surgical instruments do not prevent the risk of transmitting the prion protein that causes CJD.
Beaumont Hospital has suspended all non-emergency neurosurgery but has said it will resume on Monday.
It has said that there is no ongoing risk to patients of CJD infection.
The HSE is not saying exactly how many patients could be at risk of infection "in order to protect patient confidentiality", but put the number at between 10 and 20.
Health Minister Dr James Reilly last night said it was his understanding that there was "no clinical suspicion here at all or anything to suggest that there might have been a case of CJD involved.
"But in a routine biopsy they became suspicious and they did a test for it and as you know the test takes some time."
A special helpline has received 1,300 queries from concerned patients and their relatives.
The vast majority of those who called were reassured. A small number received calls back.