A man has died after he developed a rare and fatal infectious disease from eating squirrel brains – a deadly disorder likened to mad cow disease.
The 61-year-old New York 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.
Doctors discovered the man had developed a rare degenerative disease called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).
The fatal brain condition is usually tied to the mad cow disease, and only a few hundred cases of the have ever been reported, according to Live Science.
The patient’s family told doctors he was a keen hunter who had recently eaten squirrel brains.
It is unknown however if the hunter ate the squirrel’s whole brain or meat contaminated with parts of squirrel brain, said Dr Tara Chen, a medical resident at Rochester Regional Health and lead author of the report.
She came across the 2015 case while compiling a report on cases of the disease observed at her hospital over a five-year-period, which she presented on October 4 at IDWeek – an annual meeting of infectious diseases professionals.
Symptoms of CJD usually begin to appear around age 60 and include depression, anxiety, memory loss, personality changes, impaired thinking, difficulty swallowing and difficulty speaking.
The mental deterioration is rapid, usually occurring within a few months of eating the contaminated meat.
Many sufferers lapse into coma and about 70 percent die within a year. There is no treatment or cure for the disease.
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.