A case of a 61-year-old from Rochester, New York, is getting some attention lately as a stark reminder of that fact, as the man's consumption of squirrel brains ultimately resulted in his death.
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.
Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is extremely rare, with only four people ever confirmed to have the disease in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The squirrel meat was said to be contaminated with 'zombie-like proteins.' Polio-Like Rare Mysterious Disease Takes Over the United States; 38 Kids Affected By Now.
"'All of them were squirrel-brain eaters, " a doctor told the paper at the time.
Lead author Dr Tara Chen, a medical resident at Rochester Regional Health, told the website she discovered the case while doing a report on cases of the disease seen at her hospital during a five-year period.
The incurable neurological disorder affects about one in a million people each year worldwide, according to the National Institutes of Health. Infectious proteins, called prions, fold abnormally and cause lesions in the brain; there is no treatment or cure.
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What is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)?
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.
Most patients suffering from CJD and vCJD die within a year.
Just four confirmed cases have been reported in the U.S. They found five cases in total, but two of them turned out to be negative for the disease.
His case was one of several detailed by doctors from Rochester Regional Health, a major hospital network in the city.
However, CJD can be confirmed only with a test of brain tissue on autopsy at death.