Doctors Suspect Man Died Of Extremely Rare Disease After Eating Squirrel Brains

The 61-year-old man was brought to a hospital in Rochester New York after experiencing a decline in his thinking abilities and losing touch with reality the report said. The man had also lost the ability to walk on his own

The 61-year-old man was brought to a hospital in Rochester New York after experiencing a decline in his thinking abilities and losing touch with reality the report said. The man had also lost the ability to walk on his own

A 61-year-old man died when he developed a rare brain condition reportedly after eating squirrel brains.

An MRI of the 61-year-old man's head showed brain scans similar to those with a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), a fatal brain condition tied to the consumption of contaminated meat.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have only been four confirmed cases of vCJD ever been reported in the US.

According to the man's family, he liked to hunt and used to eat squirrel brains.

It is unknown however if the hunter ate the squirrel's whole brain or meat contaminated with parts of squirrel brain, said Dr Tara Chen, a medical resident at Rochester Regional Health and lead author of the report. By publishing their preliminary case report, they also hope to raise doctors' awareness of CJD, noting that it took an average of two weeks to diagnose or rule out the disease in their cases.

Chen presented the report on October 4 at IDWeek, an annual meeting of infectious diseases professionals.

Around one in a million people around the world have been infected with CJD, with just 350 cases occurring in the United States every year.

It is a sister disease of CJD, a similar condition which is nearly 100 times more common.

First described in 1996 in the United Kingdom, this beef is already infected with a disease that is similar called bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or "mad cow disease". That number is higher than expected based on the population of the Rochester area, which has about 1 million people, said study co-author Dr. John Hanna, also a medical resident at Rochester Regional Health.

It can also be acquired by eating infected tissue - which is what scientists believe happened when the man ingested the squirrel brains. So far, the hunter's death is only considered a "probable" case of vCJD. Although the patient passed away after his diagnosis, Chen and colleagues are working to obtain access to his medical records to see if CJD was confirmed at autopsy.

Doctors at Rochester Regional Health wrote in the report that they were shocked when four suspected cases of CJD were presented between November 2017 and April 2018 because the disorder is so rare.

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