The BC Centre for Disease Control’s Drug and Poison Information Centre is urging British Columbians to use extreme caution when foraging or consuming wild mushrooms. Poison Control received 201 mushroom poisoning calls as of 30 September 2019, well on track to being one of the most active years in recent history.
Amanita phalloides, also known as the death cap mushroom, has been increasingly popping up throughout BC, including in Victoria and South Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, Metro Vancouver, and the Fraser Valley region. The death cap is the most poisonous mushroom in the world, most often found in urban areas here. There have been no reported human deaths from BC death cap mushrooms since 2016 when a child passed away; however, two dogs have died due to possible death cap poisoning in 2019.
Facts about the Amanita phalloides (death cap):
- Death cap mushrooms are believed to kill more people worldwide than any other mushroom.
- Death caps are particularly dangerous because of their resemblance to edible varieties of mushrooms. They can be mistaken for edible puffballs when young or the Asian Straw mushroom when older.
- Toxins found in death caps include amatoxins, phallotoxins, and virotoxins.
- Symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, low blood pressure, liver failure, and kidney failure.
- Illness begins 8 to 12 hours after ingestion, beginning with gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, followed by apparent recovery.
- Gastrointestinal symptoms recur and damage to the kidney and liver progresses over the next 3 to 6 days.
Tips to stay safe while mushroom hunting:
- If you are unsure, don’t eat it!
- Only pick and eat mushrooms that are well known to be edible and easy to distinguish from poisonous varieties.
- If you suspect you’ve consumed a poisonous mushroom, call the Drug and Poison Information Centre 24-hour phone line at 1 800 567-8911 and seek medical attention immediately.
- Only hunt for mushrooms in safe terrain and exercise extreme caution if in remote areas.
- Save one of each kind of mushroom so their identities can be confirmed should symptoms develop.
Visit the BCCDC’s information page on the death cap mushroom to familiarize yourself with what it looks like and what to do if sighted or ingested: www.bccdc.ca/health-info/prevention-public-health/death-cap-mushrooms.
There are many other varieties of wild mushrooms that are less toxic than death caps but can also cause severe illness. Search for “wild mushrooms” on www.bccdc.ca for additional resources.
For information on which mushrooms in BC are edible and which are poisonous, visit UBC’s Mushrooms Up! database: www.zoology.ubc.ca/~biodiv/mushroom.
For more information on the Vancouver Mycological Society and their resources on poisonous mushrooms, visit www.vanmyco.org/about-mushrooms/poisonous.
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Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.
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