Man dies of rare disease after eating squirrel brains

Glen Mclaughlin
October 20, 2018

According to the report, the 61-year-old man had been admitted to a hospital at Rochester Regional with cognitive impairment, schizophrenia and psychosis in 2015; he was also unable to walk under his own power.

The 61-year-old was brought to Rochester Regional Health hospital in 2015 saying he was having trouble thinking clearly, was losing touch with reality and could no longer walk on his own, researchers said in an October 4 report on on the case, according to Live Science.

Dr. Tara Chen, a medical resident at Rochester Regional Health, came across the case while writing a report on suspected cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease at the hospital over the past five years; she presented her findings this month. Chen said it also wasn't clear if the man ate the brains themselves or meat that was contaminated with brain matter, according to the site.

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

Doctors discovered he developed a degenerative disease caused by the same infectious proteins that also result in the more infamous "mad cow disease".

There are three forms of CJD: one that is inherited, one that comes from exposure to infected tissue from the brain or nervous system, and one that is "sporadic" and does not appear to have a genetic or environmental cause. Prions exist naturally in the brain and are seemingly being harmless to us.

Symptoms include depression, anxiety, memory loss, personality changes, impaired thinking, difficulty swallowing and difficulty speaking. Most people develop the disease spontaneously, while a few inherit it.

It is a sister disease of CJD, a similar condition which is nearly 100 times more common.

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Most patients suffering from CJD and vCJD die within a year.

An MRI examination and a test of his cerebrospinal fluid revealed the proteins that usually trigger "mad cow disease".

The high number of suspected cases forced doctors to review all the cases recorded at the Rochester Regional Health hospital between 2013 and 2018.

Though current tests can distinguish vCJD from the classical form of the disease, Chen told Live Science that it's unknown whether the man was definitively diagnosed with CJD.

The case report urges doctors to consider the disease when making future diagnoses, as pinpointing it as a cause of symptoms is so often delayed to the point where there's no time to even consider treatment.

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

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

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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