New Brunswick Public Health investigating cluster of ‘unknown’ neurological disease


New Brunswick Public Health is investigating a possible cluster of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, after more than 40 people have come down with symptoms similar to the rare and fatal brain disease.

In 2019, 700 patients at the Moncton Hospital had to be contacted after two suspected cases were identified in patients who had cataract surgery at the hospital.

According to a memo on March 5 from Dr. Cristin Muecke, New Brunswick’s deputy chief medical officer of health, 11 suspect cases were found in total in 2019.

In 2020, 24 more cases were identified. Four cases have been discovered so far this year.  

The memo also states that five people have died, who “all met the case definition for a confirmed case of this syndrome.” So far, public health has sent more than 40 cases to the Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Surveillance System.

It’s rare for any Maritime province to see a case of CJD. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick usually see one case of CJD a year.

According to the memo, the median age for the possible cases found in New Brunswick is 59 years. Muecke advises health-care professionals to report any patients who “may meet the case definition for CJD.”

The disease is degenerative and can cause a fatal form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, in rare cases, CJD can be accidentally transmitted during a medical procedure involving human tissues, or from exposure to cattle.

Initial symptoms range from loss of memory, sudden movements, vision problems or the inability to speak.


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Elena Johaness

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