New Brunswick

Shepody woman dies after being diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

An Albert County woman who was diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease last year, has died.

Diana Paterson was the 3rd person diagnosed with fatal disease at the Moncton Hospital in 2019

Diana Paterson first showed signs of CJD in April. After her diagnosis in June, her husband Art Paterson became her full-time caregiver. She died on Jan. 30. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

An Albert County woman who was diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease last year, has died.

Diana Paterson died on Jan. 30 at her home in Shepody, about 46 kilometres southeast of Moncton.

Paterson, who was originally born in Michigan, was the third person diagnosed with the deadly degenerative brain disease, also known as CJD, at the Moncton Hospital in less than a year. 

In the seven months after she first started showing symptoms, Paterson lost her short-term memory and could no longer walk unassisted.

A symptom of CJD is blurred vision and blindness, issues that lead to people receiving cataract surgery.

Symptoms can also include constant pain, poor co-ordination and mobility, memory loss and behavioural changes.

In November, Dr. Gordon Dow, division head of infectious diseases at the Moncton Hospital, said CJD is most often found in older people, and the elderly receive most cataract surgeries.

Three years before showing signs of CDJ, Diana Paterson went on a trip to Italy with her husband. (Submitted/Art Paterson)

After his wife's diagnosis, Art Paterson went online looking for more information. He found two other CJD cases had made the news earlier in the year. 

Like Paterson, both underwent cataract surgery at the Moncton Hospital before their diagnoses. She had her surgery in December 2016. The other two patients had their surgeries in December 2018 and January 2019. At the time, Dow said it appeared the cases were unrelated. 

Unlike Paterson, both were already showing signs of the disease at the time of surgery. 

Paterson's funeral was held Tuesday at St. Mary's Anglican Church in Hillsborough.

What is CJD?

CJD is caused by abnormal folding of a protein in the brain called prion.

"It actually causes the brain cells to become toxic," said Nalini Sen, director of the research program at the Alzheimer Society of Canada, during an interview last fall.

"It can develop by just impacting one to a few brain cells and can then cause a spreading to take place across the entire brain."

There are different types of CJD, including classic CJD, which has three causes:

  • Iatrogenic, when the disease is transmitted through a medical procedure.

  • Familial, a gene mutation involved in 10 per cent of CJD cases.

  • Sporadic, when the disease occurs spontaneously for no apparent reason. Sen said tissue contamination can also fall under this category.

Classic CJD is not related to variant CJD, also known as mad cow disease, suffered by people who have come into contact with infected cattle.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Fraser

Reporter/Editor

Elizabeth Fraser is a reporter/editor with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She's originally from Manitoba. Story tip? elizabeth.fraser@cbc.ca

With files from Tori Weldon

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