Possible victims will have to endure a lifetime of tests
Published 19/07/2013 | 05:00
IT is the disease about which we know so much – especially since the spectre of "mad cow disease".
And yet there is still no test for Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), and there is no known cure.
Up to 20 patients will be coming to terms with the stark facts as they digest the news they were operated on with the same instruments as a CJD-sufferer.
It must be emphasised that the risk of the disease spreading in this way is extremely low.
However, the unfortunate group of patients are likely to have to undergo surveillance and scans for the rest of their lives.
This is part of international protocol – that patients who were exposed to surgical instruments used on a CJD patient are contacted, and informed of the risks.
CJD dominated headlines during the BSE or "mad cow disease" scare, particularly in the UK.
A new variant CJD was linked to eating BSE-contaminated beef and it led to the deaths of many young people.
Here in Ireland, BSE controls had been introduced much earlier to protect our beef industry and the risk was much lower.
The blood transfusion service was also rigorous in its controls, which are still in place today. It is believed to be very unlikely that this latest case is linked to beef.
The beef we eat today is entirely safe but this disease has a long incubation period.
Other forms are sporadic CJD and familial CJD, caused by an inherited mutation.
The core issue remains whether the decontamination of the instruments got rid of the infectious agent, known as a prion. The patients will be offered clinical and emotional support.
Even though CJD is in the news less often these days, this is a reminder that the threat has not gone away.