Published: Sat, October 20, 2018
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Man's death linked to consumption of squirrel brains

Man's death linked to consumption of squirrel brains

According to the report, the 61-year-old man had been admitted to a hospital at Rochester Regional with cognitive impairment, schizophrenia and psychosis in 2015; he was also unable to walk under his own power.

He was diagnosed with Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in 2015 'after suffering thinking problems and impaired walking, ' according to the report. They began digging through hospital records after seeing four suspected cases of CJD crop up within the span of six months last winter in the U.S. - an unusually high number for a rare disease that affects about 350 people in the entire country annually.

But it appears a different type of meat may be to blame in this case. His family described him as an avid hunter who had dined on squirrel in the past.

"It's unclear if the man consumed the entire squirrel brain or just squirrel meat that was contaminated with parts of squirrel brain", the report's lead author said.

A man has died after he developed a rare and fatal infectious disease from eating squirrel brains, likened to mad cow disease.

The rarest form is acquired CJD, which is when the brain or nervous system tissue becomes infected through exposure - only causing one percent of cases. Prions exist naturally in the brain and are seemingly being harmless to us.

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A variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob (vCJD) captured the public attention in the 1990s when people in the United Kingdom developed the disease from eating contaminated beef in an outbreak of mad cow disease. Most people develop the disease spontaneously, while a few inherit it.

Doctors at Rochester Regional Health, who wrote the report, noted they were shocked when four of the exceptionally rare suspected cases of CJD were presented between November 2017 and April 2018.

The case report urges doctors to consider the disease when making future diagnoses, as pinpointing it as a cause of symptoms is so often delayed to the point where there's no time to even consider treatment.

An MRI examination and a test of his cerebrospinal fluid revealed the proteins that usually trigger "mad cow disease".

However, CJD can be confirmed only with a test of brain tissue on autopsy at death.

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