"Death cap" mushrooms are spreading through B.C. and poisonings are up, CDC warns

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      Watch out for poisonous mushrooms, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) warned today (October 28).

      There are still three months left in 2019 but already, the agency has counted the same number of mushroom poisonings as it did during all of 2018.

      “Poison Control received 201 mushroom poisoning calls as of September 30, 2019, well on track to being one of the most active years in recent history,” reads a media release. “Comparatively, all of 2018 saw a total of 202 calls, an increase from the 161 calls received in 2017.”

      Misadventures with mushrooms are often associated with certain strains’ psychedelic properties and would-be trippers falling sick after foraging wrong caps. But that’s not what’s happening in B.C. this year.

      The BCCDC release explains that roughly two-thirds of mushroom poisonings its dealt with this year have involved children under five years old.

      “There have been no reported human deaths from BC death cap mushrooms since 2016 when a child passed away,” the release adds, “however two dogs have died due to possible death cap poisoning this year.”

      One factor that the BCCDC associates with the increase in poisonings is the increasing prevalence of the Amanita phalloides species of mushroom. Also known by its frightening nickname, the death cap mushroom, amanita phalloides has been observed sprouting in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, regions of south Vancouver Island including Victoria, and on B.C.’s Gulf Islands.

      “The death cap is the most poisonous mushroom in the world, most often found in urban areas here rather than the natural forest,” the release reads.

      “Illness begins 8 – 12 hours after ingestion, beginning with gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, followed by apparent recovery,” it continues. “Gastrointestinal symptoms recur and damage to the kidney and liver progresses over the next 3 – 6 days.”

      If anyone suspects they’ve consumed a poisonous mushroom, they’re asked to call the Drug and Poison Information Centre at: 1.800.567.8911 and also to immediately seek medical attention.

      B.C. Centre for Disease Control

      The BCCDC’s release includes a number of tips for people who are going to pick wild mushrooms.

      “If you are unsure, don’t eat it!” the first reads. Another recommends saving at least one example of every type of mushroom one picks and consumes. That way, if anyone does become ill, there’s a sample that can allow authorities to confirm the identity of the mushroom species that is suspected of making someone sick.

      An index of mushrooms found throughout coastal B.C. and the Pacific Northwest that details which ones are edible and which are poisonous can be found on the UBC website Mushroom Up!

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