Man dies of rare disease after eating squirrel brains

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A hunter from NY who died four years ago may have gotten a rare brain disorder after possibly eating squirrel brains, according to a new report.

He was brought to the hospital after losing touch with reality and losing the ability to walk on his own, LiveScience reports.

He was diagnosed with Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in 2015 'after suffering thinking problems and impaired walking, ' according to the report.

Doctors at Rochester Regional Health wrote in a report presented at the conference there were four suspected cases of the rare disease in a six-month period. Family members told doctors he was an avid hunter and had previously consumed the brains of squirrels, Live Science reported.

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

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a progressive neurological disorder that affects only about 1 in a million people each year worldwide, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Most people develop the disease spontaneously, while a few inherit it. There is no treatment or cure and no known way to prevent sporadic CJD.

The infection is always fatal, and most who get the disease live around a year. The squirrel meat was said to be contaminated with 'zombie-like proteins.' Polio-Like Rare Mysterious Disease Takes Over the United States; 38 Kids Affected By Now. This high number prompted Chen and colleagues to conduct a review of suspected CJD cases at the hospital from 2013 to 2018. It is believed that the man's habit of eating squirrel brains may have raised his risk for vCJD. Tests indicated that this was a "probable" case of vCJD because of the MRI finding and a test that showed specific proteins in the patient's cerebrospinal fluid, which often indicate the disease. With many fatal brain diseases, such as Alzheimer's, doctors can only be sure of the diagnosis by examining the brain after death.

The authors note that CJD is only confirmed by testing the brain tissue during an autopsy.

Of the five cases detailed in their report, however, two were eventually confirmed not to be CJD after all.

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