19 November 2021

Three in hospital after ingesting poisonous mushrooms

| Lottie Twyford
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A half-open death cap mushroom (left) beside a Volvariella speciosa (right) growing in Canberra. Photo: Heino Lepp.

Health authorities have warned the community to be vigilant and not pick or eat wild mushrooms after three people presented to hospital today having ingested poisonous mushrooms.

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said it was not yet possible to confirm if they were death cap mushrooms, although investigations are now underway.

However, she said it was a “timely opportunity” to warn people not to pick and eat wild mushrooms.

She said death cap mushrooms could grow anywhere and anytime, although they are not generally seen at this time of year.

“We haven’t seen recent death cap sightings in Canberra, but we are aware of some that have been spotted in other parts of our region, such as Yass and Goulburn,” she said.

“You should not be picking and eating wild mushrooms, and if you do see death cap mushrooms, you should report them.”

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith issued a warning to the community today after three people presented to emergency departments after ingesting wild mushrooms. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Usually, the peak growing season for death caps in the ACT is autumn, but they were spotted in February.

Earlier this year, ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman advised the community to seek urgent medical attention at a hospital emergency department if they believed they had ingested a death cap mushroom, even if they had no symptoms, which include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

“If possible, take any remaining mushrooms to the hospital for identification,” Dr Coleman said.

Children and animals should also be kept away from any wild mushrooms.

READ ALSO Warning issued as death cap mushrooms spotted in Yass

The death cap mushroom (Amanita phalloides) is a deadly fungus that is sometimes mistaken for an edible mushroom.

The mushroom can be 40 mm to 150 mm wide, is usually pale green to yellow in colour, and has distinctive white gills and a white stem. It also has a membrane-type skirt on the upper part of the stem and a cup-like structure around the base of the stem.

All parts of the fungus, even when peeled and cooked, are poisonous, and eating even one death cap mushroom can kill a healthy adult.

Symptoms of death cap mushroom poisoning can occur from six to 24 hours after ingestion. Sometimes people who become ill can appear to recover in a couple of days only to relapse with severe liver damage.

Without effective and early medical intervention, coma and death occur between one and two weeks after eating the mushroom. Death is caused by liver failure, often accompanied by kidney failure.

More information on death cap mushrooms is available from ACT Health.

If you think you’ve seen a death cap mushroom in Canberra, report it to Access Canberra on 132 281.

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Stephen Saunders7:39 am 20 Nov 21

They don’t grow “anywhere”, Rachel, mainly (or only) under exotic (or oak) trees: https://www.rbg.vic.gov.au/science/herbarium/death-cap/

With an ounce of common sense, and an up-to-date SpecSavers prescription, it is possibly to safely gather field mushrooms. Been doing it 60 years.

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