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December 15, 1999

California Health Director Warns of Health Risks Associated with Eating Wild Mushrooms

Sacramento, CA (SafetyAlerts) - With seasonal rains in California becoming more frequent the state's Health Director, Diana Bonta’, today issued a reminder to consumers of the potential dangers of eating wild mushrooms.

In the winter of 1996-97, two deaths, multiple hospitalizations and an unknown number of illnesses in California were attributed to the consumption of wild mushrooms, such as Amanita phalloides, also known as "death-cap" mushrooms. In the winter of 1998-99, at least two hospitalizations were blamed on this deadly mushroom.

Eating poisonous mushrooms can cause cramping, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, liver damage and death. These symptoms may occur six to 24 hours after consumption. After the initial gastrointestinal symptoms subside, patients may feel much better. However, liver damage can follow the ingestion of death-cap mushrooms, and liver transplantation may be necessary for survival in severe cases.

Although poisonous mushrooms may be found in some parts of California year-round, they are most commonly found in the fall and winter months after the rains.

Some poisonous mushrooms look nearly identical to non-poisonous mushrooms. Wild mushrooms should not be eaten unless they have been carefully examined and deemed edible by a recognized mushroom expert.

Individuals who refer to mushroom guidebooks or have families who have collected mushrooms for many years in their native countries may mistakenly believe that they can distinguish the deadly mushroom found in the Western United States from edible varieties. This deadly mushroom may look different at different times of the year, at different stages of development and in different regions. Mushroom collectors often overestimate their ability to distinguish deadly mushrooms from edible mushrooms, sometimes with tragic results.

Individuals who develop symptoms after eating wild mushrooms should immediately contact the California Poison Control System at 1-800-8-POISON (876-4766) and seek medical attention.

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