The BC Centre for Disease Control warns British Columbians to use extreme caution when foraging or consuming wild mushrooms after a rise in poisoning so far this year.
As of Sept. 30, Poison Control received 201 mushroom poisoning calls, making 2019 one of the most active years in recent history. Comparatively, there were 202 calls in 2018, an increase from the 161 calls in 2017.
According to Raymond Li, a pharmacist with BCCDC, about two thirds of all mushroom related poisoning calls so far this year involved children under the age of five, adding that mushroom hunters, parents and pet owners should be vigilant as they enjoy nature.
Death cap mushrooms, known as the most poisonous mushrooms in the world, have been popping up in parts of the province such as Victoria and South Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Region. They are most often found in urban areas rather than the natural forest.
While no humans have died from death cap mushrooms in B.C. since 2016, two dogs have died due to poisoning this year.
Death cap mushrooms are native to Europe and are thought to have been introduced to the province on the roots of imported hardwood trees such as the hombeam, a popular variety planted widely in Vancouver during the 1960s and ‘70s.
The fungus can live in the roots of trees for 40 to 50 years before emerging. They are particularly dangerous because of their resemblance to edible varieties of mushrooms, such as puffballs or the Asian Straw.
Symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, low blood pressure, liver failure and kidney failure. The illness can set in eight to 12 hours after ingesting, beginning with vomiting and diarrhea, followed by apparent recovery. Gastrointestinal symptoms recur and damage to the kidney and liver progresses over the next three to six days.
Tips to stay safe while mushroom hunting:
If you’re unsure, do not eat it.
Only pick and eat mushrooms that are well known to be edible and are easy to distinguish from poisonous ones.
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 use extreme caution if in remote areas.
Save one of each kind of mushroom so their identities can be confirmed should symptoms develop.
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