Health care officials in Saint John are hoping to meet with nearly 150 surgical patients to reassure them they have not been exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, despite a confirmed case at one of the city's hospitals in July.
The operating rooms at St. Joseph's Hospital were closed for disinfection for two days after a patient was diagnosed with CJD, a rare brain disease.
The hospital sent letters to patients who had surgeries prior to that patient's diagnosis, inviting them to a question-and-answer session on Aug. 7, said Dr. David Marr, medical director for the Saint John region.
But he contends their risk is "nil."
The disease can only be transferred on brain or neurological tissues and that couldn't have happened in this case, said Marr.
"There's been no evidence, given the type of surgery that this particular patient had, and has ever been shown in the literature to result in the transferring of the disease."
Still, Marr feels the letters and meeting is the right thing to do.
"We felt they deserved to know," he said. "We thought they should know up front and we felt by taking this head on we would be reassuring to them in the long-term because in fact we don't believe that there's any risk to patients here."
The Horizon Health Network did not issue a news release when the patient's diagnosis was confirmed and patients who were scheduled for surgery during the two days of disinfection were not given any explanation when their procedures were cancelled.
The infected patient's condition remains unclear.
CJD is not related to so-called mad cow disease, which is contracted by eating meat from an infected cow, said Marr.
CJD is a disease caused by protein-like particles called prions. These attack the brain, killing cells and creating gaps in tissue. The disease is always fatal. There are two types of CJD — classical and variant.