Western NY Man Dies After Eating Squirrel Brains
A recent report says a hunter from died from eating squirrel brains. Yes, squirrel brains.
A 61-year-old New York man was brought to a Rochester hospital after losing his mental capacity and ability to walk in 2015. Live Science says the MRI revealed something striking:
The brain scan looked similar to those seen in people with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), a fatal brain condition caused by infectious proteins called prions. Only a few hundred cases of vCJD have ever been reported, and most were tied to consumption of contaminated beef in the United Kingdom in the 1980s and 1990s. (In cows, vCJD is commonly called "mad cow disease.")
It turns out the man probably got the disease from a squirrel and not contaminated beef as his family said he liked to hunt and had eaten squirrel brains. Dr. Tara Chen, a medical resident at Rochester Regional Health and lead author of the report that made 27 Oddest Medical Cases, says It's unclear if the man consumed the entire squirrel brain or just squirrel meat that was contaminated with parts of squirrel brain.
Here are a few fact facts about CJD from NIH:
What is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)?
CJD is a rare, degenerative, fatal brain disorder. It affects about one person in every one million per year worldwide; in the United States, there are about 350 cases per year.
What are the symptoms of the disease?
Initially, individuals experience problems with muscle coordination, personality changes (including impaired memory, judgment, and thinking), and impaired vision to rapidly progressive dementia.
How is CJD transmitted?
CJD cannot be transmitted through the air or touching or most other forms of casual contact. Spouses and other household members of people with sporadic CJD have no higher risk of contracting the disease than the general population. However, exposure to brain tissue and spinal cord fluid from infected persons should be avoided to prevent transmission of the disease through these materials.
[Live Science, NIH]