New York Man Died After He Ate Squirrel Brains

Public domain image  Jon Sullivan

Public domain image Jon Sullivan

A MAN has died from an extremely rare virus dubbed "Squirrel Disease" after reportedly eating the brains of a dead squirrel.

The 61-year-old was brought to Rochester Regional Health hospital in 2015 saying he was having trouble thinking clearly, was losing touch with reality and could no longer walk on his own, researchers said in an October 4 report on on the case, according to Live Science.

A new report on the man's death has revealed he suffered Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) - a rare form of mad cow disease.

The patient's family told doctors he was a keen hunter who had recently eaten squirrel brains.

Tara Chen, a medical student who produced the report, said it wasn't entirely clear yet if the squirrel brains were the cause of the infection, and that researchers were trying to secure autopsy samples, according to LiveScience.

The incurable neurological disorder affects about one in a million people each year worldwide, according to the National Institutes of Health. It is believed that the man's habit of eating squirrel brains may have raised his risk for vCJD.

A type of CJD called variant CJD (vCJD) can occur from eating infected beef. Initial signs and symptoms typically include personality changes, anxiety, depression, memory loss, impaired thinking, blurred vision or blindness, insomnia, difficulty in speaking, difficulty in swallowing and, sudden, jerky movements or seizures. Most people develop the disease spontaneously, while a few inherit it.

Only four confirmed cases of vCJD had been reported in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are about 350 cases in the USA per year.

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

The high number of suspected cases forced doctors to review all the cases recorded at the Rochester Regional Health hospital between 2013 and 2018.

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". With many fatal brain diseases, such as Alzheimer's, doctors can only be sure of the diagnosis by examining the brain after death.

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