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An Open Letter to the Community from Dr. Joseph Pepe

On Wednesday, September 4, Catholic Medical Center announced that a patient who had neurosurgery at CMC, and is now deceased, may have arrived at CMC with a rare and very serious illness called Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD).  It will take several weeks for an autopsy report to confirm the diagnosis. 

CMC has been working closely with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, and the Manchester Health Department, and will continue to do so.  In the meantime, we want to ensure the entire CMC community has access to the very best information and facts about this situation.

At the outset I want to emphasize, there is no general public health risk, or general risk to the CMC community.

CJD is caused by a rare type of protein called a prion, which affects the nervous system and causes fatal deterioration of the brain.  There is no known cure or treatment for CJD at this time.

CJD prions resist standard sterilization processes used in hospitals, and as a result, there is an extremely remote possibility the disease may be transmitted through instruments used during neurosurgery. These instruments would need to come in contact with the brain or spinal tissue of another person.  The chance of contracting the disease through neurosurgery is remote – in fact there has not been a confirmed case of CJD transmitted through instruments since 1976.   CJD cannot be transmitted by casual contact, sneezing, coughing, kissing, sexual contact or blood transfusion.

CMC and DHHS have identified eight CMC patients who may have been exposed to the disease through neurosurgical instruments used on the initial patient at CMC.  We have reached out to those patients to let them know about the situation, and to let them know we will be here to provide ongoing care, support and information. 

Catholic Medical Center has been committed to caring for the people of New Hampshire for over 100 years. As always, our primary concern is the health and well-being of our patients and their families, and our employees, and we will do all we can to assist those directly affected by this situation.

We value open communication and transparency, and we will update you with further information as it becomes available.

For additional information about CJD, please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions link, which was prepared jointly by CMC and DHHS for the public’s reference.

Thank you.


Dr. Joseph Pepe
President and CEO
Catholic Medical Center

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