HSE will contact CJD risk patients today
*Special helpline set up for concerned patients – 1800 302 602
*HSE believes between 10 and 20 patients affected
*It is HSE’s ‘desire’ to contact all patients today
*Health chief insists risk of CJD transmission is ‘low’
THE HSE is aiming to contact up to 20 patients today who are at risk of contracting fatal brain disease CJD following surgery at a Dublin hospital.
Dr Kevin Kelleher, head of Health Protection at the HSE, said they believe that between 10 and 20 people have been affected.
“We will be contacting those people today,” Dr Kelleher said on RTE’s Morning Ireland earlier today.
“It is our desire to do so and we will be making every effort to do so today.
“We will be having to break that news to them, and we will then also explain what it will mean for them in the future.
“They have a slightly increased risk of getting CJD and we also then have to tell about certain precautions they will then have to take themselves to prevent any possible further transmission of the disease if at all,” he said.
The group of patients underwent surgery at Beaumont Hospital.
They were operated on using instruments that had been used on another patient who was later diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD).
Dr Kelleher emphasised the risk of the group of patients contracting CJD remains low.
“But I mean the risk for them is not much more than within the general population
“One in a million people a year get the disease – so there are only one four or five cases a year in Ireland.
“The risk is very very low,” he said.
He added that there was no recorded example of CJD transmission in similar situations.
There is no test for the disease and no known cure -- so each of the patients will have to be monitored over their lifetime to detect any possible symptoms.
CJD can be passed on by contaminated instruments that haven't been subjected to special, stringent sterilisation techniques above and beyond those normally used.
CJD is infamous as the human form of "mad cow disease", or BSE; however, this patient's form of CJD is unrelated.
It is a degenerative neurological disorder which is incurable, and it is invariably fatal.
It mostly strikes older people although the new variant, linked to eating BSE-contaminated beef, has claimed younger victims.
It is understood the patient who has been diagnosed with CJD is in their 30s and was operated on for another brain condition.
Surgeons operated on this individual about two weeks before the same patient was diagnosed with CJD.
But in the meantime, the surgical instruments were used in several further surgeries at Beaumont -- sparking concerns about the disease being passed on.
The HSE is making efforts to contact all of the affected patients, who were last night thought to number between 10 and 20.
CJD is caused by an infectious protein called a prion, which can withstand very high temperatures on surgical instruments.
It has symptoms including anxiety, depression, memory loss, sudden, jerky movements and dementia.
Although the risk is low, the fear is that the standard sterilisation process did not kill off the infectious protein fully.
The instruments need to subjected to a special, intensive sterilisation process or destroyed to fully remove the risk to other patients on which they are used.
A spokeswoman for the HSE confirmed last night that a patient has been recently diagnosed with CJD, and the family is requesting privacy.
The hospital is receiving advice from the Irish panel on CJD and from world experts in the UK, who have dealt with similar cases in the UK and worldwide.
"This group is assessing the circumstances of this case to determine what, if any, risk may exist for other patients. Further information will be available once this group has completed its assessment.
"When a case of CJD is diagnosed, a review is undertaken to ensure that any precautions, if needed, are taken, in line with the national and international guidance," she added.
The most recent figures released by the HSE show that there has been 30 cases of CJD in Ireland between 2005 and 2011. There are between two and six deaths a year from the disease here.
Lawyer Tom Murphy, the chairman of south Dublin's Kilmacud Crokes GAA club, was one high-profile victim of CJD last year.
The father of four, originally from Sligo, who was in his 50s, died last September just weeks after developing the rare disease.
In 2011, a 38-year-old man was awarded more than €750,000 in damages after being given a blood product contaminated with vCJD (Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob).
The unidentified man suffered burns in a factory explosion in 2005 and received plasma during surgery in St James's Hospital from a donor who subsequently died from vCJD in 2006.
And previously, Co Donegal multi-millionaire businessman and trawler owner Kevin McHugh died from the disease aged 59 in 2006.