New York man died after eating squirrel brains

Public domain image  Jon Sullivan

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

The 61-year-old NY man was brought to hospital after he had difficulty thinking, was losing touch with reality and he couldn't walk by himself, according to a case report presented to an infectious diseases forum last week. Only a few hundred cases of vCJD have ever been reported, and most were tied to consumption of contaminated beef in the United Kingdom in the 1980s and 1990s.

The New York man was taken to a Rochester hospital in 2015 complaining that he was having trouble thinking, losing touch with reality and couldn't walk. It's unclear if the man consumed the entire squirrel brain or just squirrel meat that was contaminated with parts of squirrel brain, Chen said.

The shocking findings and tragic death were reported at an annual meeting on infectious diseases, Live Science reported.

Doctors discovered the man had developed a rare degenerative disease called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).

A hunter may have died from an "ultra-rare mad cow-like disease" after he ate squirrel brains. 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. There is no treatment or cure.

Infectious proteins called prions attack the brain tissue and leave spongey holes that can be viewed under a microscope.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is an extremely rare brain disease that affects about one in 1,000,000 people worldwide.

There are 350 cases of the non-variant disease per year on average in the United States, according to the NIH. So far, the hunter's death is only considered a "probable" case of vCJD.

Only four people have ever confirmed to have the disease in the USA, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In that case, the patient, a 65-year-old woman, had undergone plasmapheresis, a blood-filtering procedure, and a gynecological surgery before her diagnosis.

Squirrel-brain transmission of the disease is not a new concern.

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