New York Hunter Contracted Rare and Fatal Disease After Eating Squirrel Brains

Eating a squirrel's brain may have been what led to a 61-year-old man's death.
Eating a squirrel's brain may have been what led to a 61-year-old man's death.(Getty)

Researchers believe he contracted a rare illness similar to mad cow disease.

Thinking of cooking up a feast? You might want to pass on the squirrel brains.

A New York man died of an extremely rare neurological disorder after eating the brains of a squirrel.

In the months before his death, he suffered from psychosis and schizophrenia and even lost his ability to walk. Family members told doctors he was an avid hunter and had previously consumed the brains of squirrels, Live Science reported.

An MRI of the 61-year-old man’s head showed brain scans similar to those with a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), a fatal brain condition tied to the consumption of contaminated meat.

The symptoms of the rare ailment are similar to those of mad cow disease.

What is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)?

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

CJD is considered a degenerative and fatal disease, and includes symptoms of forgetfulness, trouble with vision, changes in behavior and lack of coordination, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). In its later stages, CJD can cause blindness, involuntary movements, dementia-like mental illness and even coma.

The rare disease most often affects those around 60 years old. While it often occurs with no known cause, it can be hereditary in people who have a family history of the disease or contracted when the brain or nervous system is exposed to the disease.

A variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob (vCJD) captured the public attention in the 1990s when people in the United Kingdom developed the disease from eating contaminated beef in an outbreak of mad cow disease.

Infectious proteins called prions attack the brain tissue and leave spongey holes that can be viewed under a microscope.

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