In 2015, the 61-year-old was unable to walk and told doctors at a Rochester hospital that he was losing touch with reality.
A new report on the man's death has revealed he suffered Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) - a rare form of mad cow disease.
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.
A Rochester, New York, resident might have caught one of the most frightening brain diseases around in one of the strangest ways possible - eating squirrel meat contaminated with zombie-like proteins.
The man's family said he'd been known to eat squirrel brains - though it's unclear if he dined on the whole brain or squirrel meat that had come in contact with the contaminated brain.
The incurable neurological disorder affects about one in a million people each year worldwide, according to the National Institutes of Health. It is believed to be caused by consumption of products from cows with the disease bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or "mad cow" disease).
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We don't recommend the squirrel brains. Initial signs and symptoms typically include personality changes, anxiety, depression, memory loss, impaired thinking, blurred vision or blindness, insomnia, difficulty in speaking, difficulty in swallowing and, sudden, jerky movements or seizures. Woman Scratched By Cat on Breast Develops Rare Flesh-Eating Disease Called Pyoderma Gangrenosum.
What is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)?
There are 350 cases of the non-variant disease per year on average in the United States, according to the NIH.
Most patients suffering from CJD and vCJD die within a year.
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.
His case was one of several detailed by doctors from Rochester Regional Health, a major hospital network in the city.
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