New York Hunter Contracted Rare and Fatal Disease After Eating Squirrel Brains

A man has died of a rare disease after eating squirrel brains likened to mad cow disease

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

In a case report, researchers said the 61-year-old was brought to Rochester Regional Health in 2015 saying he was having trouble thinking, he was losing touch with reality and he couldn't walk.

The findings of the report were presented on October 4 at IDWeek, an annual meeting of infectious diseases professionals, reported Live Science. 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 United States - an unusually high number for a rare disease that affects about 350 people in the entire country annually.

An MRI and a test of his cerebrospinal fluid found the proteins tied to Mad Cow disease, and it was determined he had the most severe form. While it often occurs with no known cause, it can be hereditary in people who have a family history of the disease or contracted when the brain or nervous system is exposed to the disease.

The report was presented at the ID (infectious disease) week conference as an abstract called "Towards Earlier Diagnosis of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs): A Case Series, Including One Associated with Squirrel Brain Consumption". There is no treatment or cure and no known way to prevent sporadic CJD. 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 patients suffering from CJD and vCJD die within a year.

Non-Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease - a similiar disease - is also rare and tends to affect older people.

Dr. Tara Chen came across the unusual case when she was tasked with doing a report on cases of CJD seen at the hospital over the last five years.

The high number caused doctors to review all suspected cases at the hospital between 2013 and 2018.

The infection is always fatal, and most who get the disease live around a year.

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

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