NY man reportedly dies after eating squirrel brains

Public domain image  Jon Sullivan

Public domain image Jon Sullivan

The 61 year-old man's unusual death was highlighted in a recent medical report which explained how eating the rodent offal caused tiny holes in the victim's brain.

Only once his brain scan results and other tests were out the experts found out that he may have had a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). vCJD is a type of a rare neurodegenerative ailment that can be fatal. 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 U.S. - an unusually high number for a rare disease that affects about 350 people in the entire country annually. And in the man's case, Live Science reported, the family told his doctors that he was an avid hunter and connoisseur of squirrel meat. However, it was not clear if the man had consumed the entire squirrel brain or just squirrel meat that was contaminated with parts of squirrel brain, according to Dr. Tara Chen, a medical resident at Rochester Regional Health and lead author of the report. Most of these cases have been linked to consumption of contaminated beef in the United Kingdom in the 1980s and 1990s. Prions exist naturally in the brain and are seemingly being harmless to us.

The non-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease is also rare, with only about 350 cases per year in the United States, according to the NIH.

The rare disease most often affects those around 60 years old. There is no treatment or cure.

CJD is one of several diseases that are caused by a kind of protein known as a prion.




Doctors at Rochester Regional Health, who wrote the report, noted they were shocked when four of the exceptionally rare suspected cases of CJD were presented between November 2017 and April 2018.

This high number of suspected CJD cases prompted Chen, Hanna and colleagues to conduct a review of suspected CJD cases occurring at their hospital from 2013 to 2018.

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

The report highlights the need for doctors to keep CJD diagnosis in mind and for hospitals to have "policies for infection control when it comes to CJD", Hanna said.

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