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Third case of rare degenerative brain disease identified in Moncton

The disease is difficult to diagnose and it can be several years before a person who is exposed to CJD sees the abnormal prions form. Getty Images

New Brunswick’s Horizon Health Network has confirmed a third case of degenerative brain disease was identified at the Moncton Hospital this June.

The confirmation comes after two cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) were identified earlier this year at the same facility.

“We believe this is an unlinked cluster, meaning it is completely random,” said Dr. Gordon Dow, the division head of infectious diseases at the Moncton Hospital, in a statement.

Dow stressed that there is no reason for public alarm.

READ MORE: N.B. health authority contacts over 700 patients after detecting rare degenerative brain disease

The first case of CJD was diagnosed after a patient was admitted to hospital in December. Six weeks later, another man was diagnosed with the same degenerative brain disease.

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Both had undergone cataract surgery before being diagnosed with CJD.

Horizon Health contacted 700 patients who underwent cataract surgery at the Moncton Hospital after they detected the two cases.

What is CJD?

According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, CJD is a rare and fatal brain disease that is caused by a protein in the brain called prion.

In its natural form, prion is harmless. But when it is abnormal it becomes toxic to brain cells.

The disease is difficult to diagnose and it can be several years before a person who is exposed to CJD sees the abnormal prions form.

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Over 700 patients contacted after detecting rare degenerative brain disease – Apr 9, 2019

The society says CJD can affect everyone differently but that the disease progresses quickly once symptoms appear. People with CJD rarely live beyond a year.

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CJD can be “accidentally transmitted during a medical procedure involving human tissues” but can also be transmitted from exposure to a cattle infected with a variant of CJD known as mad cow disease.

CJD can also happen sporadically, often in elderly people without warning, or be the result of a genetic mutation.

READ MORE: Young Edmonton mother with rare form of dementia passes away

‘No evidence’ cases are linked

Horizon Health says there have been approximately 1,000 cases of CJD identified in Canada in the last 20 years, and 93 per cent of them have been classified as sporadic.

They now say that the first two cases of CJD have been confirmed as sporadic while they have not yet been able to determine the nature of the third case.

“It was important to scrutinize these three cases closely, and there is absolutely no evidence that these cases are linked,” said Dow.

“We are confident these cases occurred completely independent of one another as sporadic CJD.”

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