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Investigations Continue On Neurological Condition

Investigations Continue Into Man’s Unusual Neurological Condition

Waikato Hospital neurologists are cautioning the public against assuming a patient with an unusual neurological condition has new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).

Neurologist Dr Paul Timmings says he and his colleagues are querying the likelihood that the young man has CJD, a notifiable illness. They have notified the Ministry of Health of this possibility.

“We are caring for a young man who has presented with unusual progressive neurological symptoms. We consider CJD to be a possible diagnosis but this is still unconfirmed.

“There are four types of CJD including hereditary, sporadic, variant and iatrogenic. There is some overlap in the symptoms of the different forms and diagnosis on the basis of clinical symptoms alone is difficult.”

He said the hospital had carried out a number of investigations including radiological scans and diagnostic tests on blood, spinal fluid and tissue. These had been sent to Australia for further analysis and results were expected in about a fortnight.

“The test on the tonsil biopsy will give us the most definitive result but even then, because of the limitations of the tests, it is possible the diagnosis might simply change from ‘possible’ to ‘probable’.

“The only definitive way of diagnosing CJD is brain biopsy which cannot be justified given we can offer no specific treatment.

“While I acknowledge the high degree of public interest, our main concern is to provide care for this young man and to support his family through this distressing illness.”

Dr Timmings said family and staff caring for the young man were not at risk of infection as CJD was not transmissable from person to person by normal social or routine clinical contact.

“There is no evidence of infectivity in saliva, body secretions, or excreta. Patients with CJD may be safely nursed in normal hospital wards or at home with no special precautions other than normal standard infection control practices that would apply to any other patient.

“Special precautions are only needed for handling central nervous system or eye tissue and cerebrospinal fluid.”

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