Its mushroom season and the BC Centre for Disease Control and the Vancouver Mycological Society are warning recreational mushroom hunters to use caution and common sense when foraging wild mushrooms.
The warning follows an increase in calls to the BC Drug and Poison Information Centre (DPIC) this July as well as the seasonal appearance of Amanita phalloides, also known as the death cap mushroom which is increasingly popping up in various regions throughout the province.
Dr. Roy Purssell, medical director of DIPC says that calls regarding exposure to poisonous foraged mushrooms have doubled this season.
“We are especially concerned about death cap mushrooms which are highly toxic,” Purssell said.
For Henryk Sorbyl from Fort St. James, it’s all about common sense.
Sorbyl enjoys mushroom picking every season in B.C. and will be venturing off into the forests near Terrace this month.
“I’ve been picking mushrooms for 24 years but for someone new, it’s important to do your research and bring a book if you are unsure,” Sorbyl said.
“Often someone will show your way.”
“We first discovered the death cap in Vancouver in 2008,” said Paul Kroeger from the Vancouver Mycological Society.
“Given the trees they live in were planted in the 1960s and 70s, we are seeing more and more appear every year and we believe that trend will continue.”
Kroeger says death cap mushrooms first appeared in BC in the Victoria area and the Fraser Valley, and more recently in and around Vancouver.
Nobody has died from a BC death cap mushroom. There are many other varieties of wild mushrooms that are less toxic than death caps but can also cause severe illness.
Tips to stay safe while mushroom hunting:
- If you are unsure, don’t eat it!
- Only pick and eat mushrooms that are well known, distinct and easily identifiable.
- Eat small amounts.
- If you suspect you’ve consumed a poisonous mushroom, call DPIC (1-800-567-8911 or 604-682-5050) and seek medical attention or call 9-1-1;
- Keep a sample of the mushroom or food that was eaten.
- Only hunt for mushrooms in safe terrain and exercise extreme caution if in remote areas.
Amanita phalloides (death cap):
- Believed to kill more people worldwide than any other mushroom.
- Toxins include phallotoxin, amatoxin and virotoxin.
- Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, low blood pressure, liver failure and kidney failure.
- Illness begins 8 – 12 hours after ingestion, beginning with gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, followed by apparent recovery. Gastrointestinal symptoms recur and damage to the kidney and liver progresses over the next 3 – 6 days.