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Case of Rare Brain Disease Reported in New Hampshire

Hemera/Thinkstock(CONCORD, N.H.) -- New Hampshire health officials are nearly certain that a patient who died in August after brain surgery months earlier had Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a rare degenerative brain disease.

Eight other neurosurgery patients at Catholic Medical Center in Concord, N.H., may have been exposed to the disease through potentially contaminated equipment, officials announced Wednesday.

The hospital's standard sterilization process does not remove the infectious agent that causes sporadic CJD, putting the eight patients at risk.

"The risk to these individuals is considered extremely low," said Dr. Jose Montero, director of Public Health at the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, "but after extensive expert discussion, we could not conclude that there was no risk, so we are taking the step of notifying the patients and providing them with as much information as we can. Our sympathies are with all of the patients and their families, as this may be a confusing and difficult situation."

Hospital employees and other patients are not at risk, officials said.

The original patient who is believed to have had sporadic CJD underwent surgery in May. The only way to diagnosis the disease is through autopsy, which is currently ongoing.

Sporadic CJD happens with no known cause. The disease affects the nervous system and causes deterioration of the brain. Nearly 200 people in the United States are diagnosed with CJD each year.

Symptoms include personality changes, lack of coordination, visual disturbances and involuntary movements.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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