Beware of deadly mushrooms in King County forests

October 12, 2010

By Staff

NEW — 11:30 a.m. Oct. 12, 2010

Forest foragers, beware.

King County health officials called for mushroom foragers to exercise caution after a poisoning related to the Amanita phalloides — or death cap — species of mushroom.

A Bellevue woman who ate the poisonous mushroom was hospitalized last month and has since recovered.

“It takes extensive knowledge to know which mushrooms are safe to eat and which are poisonous,” Dr. David Fleming, Public Health – Seattle & King County director and health officer, said in a news release. “Amanita phalloides look very much like some edible types of mushrooms and increasingly can be found in the wild, in local parks, and even in our own backyards. Only people who really know what they’re doing should eat mushrooms they’ve picked themselves.”

The highly toxic death cap mushrooms cannot be distinguished from safe mushrooms by taste or smell.

Symptoms of poisoning include abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms usually start within six to 24 hours of ingestion. Poisoning may result in damage to the liver and other vital organs — or even death.

Experts believed death cap mushrooms to be rare in Washington, but a number of the mushrooms have been spotted this fall, possibly due to wet weather.

“Mushroom poisonings are almost always caused by people eating wild mushrooms collected by nonspecialists,” Dr. William Hurley, Washington Poison Center medical director, said in the release. “People hunting for wild mushrooms — especially novices — might misidentify a toxic species. Or recent immigrants might mistake a poisonous mushroom for an edible mushroom from their native land. In fact, the reported cases of poisoning by Amanita phalloides in the Northwest have been immigrants from Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.”

Learn more about mushrooms from the Puget Sound Mycological Society. The group offers mushroom identification clinics through the end of October. Learn more about the program here, or call 206-522-6031.

Call the Washington Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately if you believe you ingested a poisonous mushroom. Learn more about poisonous mushrooms from the federal Food and Drug Administration.

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