Poisonous Mushrooms Sprout Across Australian State

MELBOURNE, Australia — Victorians are being urged not to gather wild mushrooms, as two poisonous varieties have started growing across the state.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Angie Bone, on March 30, warned the recent wet weather had created ideal conditions for death cap and yellow staining mushrooms to flourish in Melbourne and regional Victoria.

“While commercially-sold mushrooms are safe, poisonings can occur when people gathering wild mushrooms inadvertently include toxic species,” Bone said.

“Poisonous mushrooms may appear very similar to edible varieties.”

Death cap mushrooms, which are often mistaken for button or field mushrooms, can kill a person within 48 hours if they are eaten.

They are responsible for about 90 percent of all mushroom poisoning deaths.

Symptoms usually start with abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, before liver failure sets in.

“Death can follow within 48 hours from serious liver damage,” Bone said.

“If you have any doubts about a species of fungus or mushroom, don’t eat it. Cooking, peeling, or drying these mushrooms does not remove or inactivate the poison.”

The commonly found yellow staining mushroom turns yellow when a thumbnail bruises the cap or stem.

It can also cause an upset stomach, headache, dizziness, drowsiness, and sweating.

Bone said the combination of coronavirus and an ideal growing season saw a record number of mushroom poisoning incidents in 2020.

Last year there were 426 calls about potential mushroom poisoning to Victoria’s Poisons Information Centre, more than double the number of calls in the previous two years.

The symptoms of mushroom poisoning vary from slight gastrointestinal discomfort to death in about 10 days. The toxins present are secondary metabolites produced by the fungus. Mushroom poisoning is usually the result of ingestion of wild mushrooms after misidentifying a toxic mushroom as an edible species.

The most common reason for this misidentification is a close resemblance in terms of color and general morphology of the toxic mushrooms species with edible species. To prevent mushroom poisoning, mushroom gatherers familiarize themselves with the mushrooms they intend to collect, as well as with any similar-looking toxic species.

There were multiple poisoning cases requiring admission and treatment in intensive care.

Bone said anyone who becomes ill after eating mushrooms should seek urgent medical advice and, if possible, take samples of the whole mushroom for identification.

Patients hospitalized and given aggressive support therapy almost immediately after ingestion of amanitin-containing mushrooms have a mortality rate of only 10 percent. In contrast, those admitted 60 or more hours after ingestion have a 50-90 percent mortality rate.

(Edited by Amrita Das and Ritaban Misra)

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