updated 5/18/2006 2:20:09 PM ET 2006-05-18T18:20:09

Officials at a suburban Denver hospital alerted six brain surgery patients after another patient died of classic Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a rare degenerative brain ailment, the hospital said Thursday.

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The six people had neurosurgery at Littleton Adventist Hospital after an operation on the Creutzfeldt-Jakob patient. They were alerted because of the remote possibility that the disease could be transmitted by surgical instruments, even after they are sterilized, the hospital said.

It was not immediately clear whether the instruments used on the victim were also used on any of the other six patients.

The patient, whose name was not released, died March 23, nearly six weeks after the surgery. The disease was confirmed on May 9, officials said. The hospital did not say how the patient contracted the disease.

Classic Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease is not related to mad cow disease, unlike variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. Classic CJD occurs sporadically, appearing in about one in 1 million people in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site. It progresses quickly and is always fatal.

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