British Columbia

Warning issued about deadly mushrooms ahead of Thanksgiving weekend

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are getting outdoors, but the B.C. Centre for Disease Control says gathering mushrooms can be fatal if the death cap mushroom ends up on your plate.

B.C. Centre for Disease Control says death cap mushrooms typically emerge during wetter months

Be cautious when foraging for mushrooms because eating the death cap mushroom can lead to serious illness and even death. (Shutterstock /Boku Maro)

As fall brings wetter conditions that foster the growth of mushrooms, the B.C. Centre for Disease control is warning people to beware of the poisonous death cap mushroom which can be fatal if ingested.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are getting outdoors so the BCCDC is telling parents of young children and pet owners to be cautious this Thanksgiving long weekend.

The species Amanita phalloides, commonly known as the death cap mushroom, is a poisonous and grows in urban and forested areas. 

If consumed, the mushroom can lead to liver and kidney damage from dangerous toxins and, in some cases, death. Symptoms of death cap mushroom poisoning include low blood pressure, nausea, abdominal pain, dehydration and vomiting which can begin within six to 12 hours after eating.

Symptoms may clear and then disappear for several days, but liver and kidney damage can appear three to six days after ingesting the mushrooms.

A very young specimen of amanita phalloides before the cap flattens and changes colour. This deadly fungi species has been mistaken for edible straw mushrooms, which do not grow in B.C. In early stages they may also be mistaken for puff balls. (Oak Bay Parks staff/Chris Hyde-Lay)

So far, calls to the B.C. Drug and Poison Information Centre indicate mushroom exposures in 2020 have been on par with previous years, but there was a spike in rainy June with 67 calls for mushroom exposures, double what was seen in previous years.

Pharmacist Raymond Li with the B.C. Drug and Poison Information Centre said adults also need to pay attention to what children might be putting in their mouths.

Death cap mushrooms are now common in Vancouver, Victoria and the Fraser Valley. The fungus that sprouts these mushrooms is believed to have arrived on European oaks and other imported trees. (Paul Kroeger)

"Typically around two-thirds of our mushroom calls involve children five and under, so parents and caregivers need to be mindful of what's on the ground where their kids are playing. But this year we have noticed an increase in mushroom calls involving adults."

In 2016, a three-year-old boy from Victoria died after eating a poisonous death cap mushroom picked in the city's downtown.

The mushroom has been found fruiting in Vancouver, Victoria, the Fraser Valley, southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

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