Search for tainted surgical tools is on; Windsor on mad-cow alert

Search for tainted surgical tools is on;
Windsor on mad-cow alert

May 11, 2001 The Toronto Sun by Antonella Artuso

Medical instruments used on a patient with a suspected case of Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease were possibly circulated through four hospitals, Ontario Health Minister Tony Clement said yesterday.

But ministry officials determined later in the day that the threat was confined to only one hospital in Windsor.

Scientists believe the deadly disease -- a human variant of "mad cow disease" -- can theoretically be transmitted to others through blood or human tissue.

A neurosurgeon at Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital in Windsor received a blood test Tuesday indicating that a patient who had surgery there in March may be suffering from Creutzfeldt-Jakob, a serious neurological disease that can be spread through beef or, in theory, blood.

"So far we have been advised by Health Canada and by the medical experts that this is a theoretical concern rather than an actual concern," Clement told the Legislature.

"Having said that, I think I, like many others, would rest better at night knowing absolutely that there has been no further exposure to this terrible disease amongst any of the patients that have been operated on in the hospital."

The Windsor hospital temporarily suspended surgery and began notifying patients operated on since March.

Clement said the ministry had learned the hospital routinely shared some medical instruments with three other hospitals -- Windsor Regional Hospital, the London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph's Health Services in London.

But Clement backtracked after officials in London disputed the claim and a ministry assessment showed there had been no risk to patients there.

So while Hotel Dieu Grace Hospital in Windsor cancelled elective surgery, destroyed some equipment and disinfected other equipment in a bath of sodium hydroxide, it was business as usual in London hospitals.

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