Man's death linked to consumption of squirrel brains

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.

It's thought that the man had contracted a form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), which affects a scant 1 in one million people per year across the world. 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 USA - an unusually high number for a rare disease that affects about 350 people in the entire country annually.

The unnamed victim was taken to a hospital in Rochester, New York in 2015 after his ability to think and was losing touch with reality.

The man's family said he'd been known to eat squirrel brains - though it's unclear if he dined on the whole brain or squirrel meat that had come in contact with the contaminated brain. The squirrel meat was said to be contaminated with 'zombie-like proteins.' Polio-Like Rare Mysterious Disease Takes Over the USA; 38 Kids Affected By Now. It is believed that the man's habit of eating squirrel brains may have raised his risk for vCJD.

Around one in a million people around the world have been infected with CJD, with just 350 cases occurring in the U.S. every year.

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What is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)? It's a "debilitating disease" that progresses quickly and usually results in death within one year of diagnosis, Chen told Live Science.

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

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

The team is now working to obtain the patient's medical records to see if a coroner confirmed CJD upon his death.

Doctors at Rochester Regional Health wrote in the report that they were shocked when four suspected cases of CJD were presented between November 2017 and April 2018 because the disorder is so rare.

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