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14 People Poisoned By Death Cap Mushrooms In California

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An abundance of “death cap” mushrooms in northern California is taking the blame for poisoning 14 people in December, health authorities say.

The wild crop of Amanita phalloides, believed to be the world’s most dangerous mushroom, closely resemble another variety of edible mushrooms. The patients had either foraged for them, or were given the mushrooms to eat, CBS News reports.

All 14 patients recovered, but three needed liver transplants, and one toddler suffered permanent brain damage, researchers say.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone picking wild mushrooms should have them checked by professionals before eating them. A report published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report states,

Wild-picked mushrooms should be evaluated by a trained mycologist [fungi expert] before ingestion.

Dr. Kathy Vo of the University of California, San Francisco, says, “Inexperienced foragers should be strongly discouraged from eating any wild mushrooms.”

In the past years, the California Poison Control System had received only a few calls regarding mushroom poisonings. Last year’s sudden outbreak alarmed health officials, who say it might be due to an increase in the growth of wild mushrooms in 2016. There was greater rainfall and warmer weather towards the end of northern California’s fall season.

The CDC report adds, “Although weather conditions and increased numbers of A. phalloides poisonings do not prove a cause-and-effect relationship, early seasonal rainfall and warmer subsequent temperatures made a substantial contribution to mushroom proliferation.”

Vo says that there has likewise been an increase in amateur foraging and wild-crafting, or gathering plants for food and medicines. This, in turn, has raised the risk for more cases of poisoning.

Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, which in turn can lead to dehydration and liver damage. It takes as little as half a mushroom cap to poison a person.

Health-care providers are advised to call their local poison control center should they notice their patients falling ill from eating mushrooms, the report says.

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