State Health Department Warns New Yorkers: Don't Eat Wild Mushrooms

One Death, Two Other Hospitalizations Associated With Eating Wild Mushrooms

ALBANY, N.Y. (July 25, 2008) - The New York State Health Department is warning New Yorkers not to eat wild mushrooms following the death of a Westchester County resident from eating toxic wild mushrooms earlier this month.

Two Rensselaer County residents were also hospitalized with severe illness this month after eating wild mushrooms.

"Eating wild mushrooms without knowing if they are safe can have serious consequences," said Edward Horn, director of Environmental Health Assessment for the state Health Department. "Several mushrooms that grow in the Northeast contain toxins and are potentially fatal if eaten. Don't eat wild mushrooms unless you know from a very reliable source that they are edible."

Wild mushrooms grow in many areas of the state and multiply in wet weather conditions. The person who died and the two residents who were hospitalized all ate highly toxic wild mushrooms called Amanita bisporigera, also known as "Death or Destroying Angel." The two hospitalized Rensselaer County residents have since been released.

If you suspect an accidental mushroom poisoning, immediately call the New York State Regional Poison Control Centers at 1-800-222-1222 and seek medical attention and inform the health care provider that you have consumed wild mushrooms. Persons who have eaten any wild mushrooms may experience symptoms within hours or days of the mushroom meal. Providing a description of the mushroom that was eaten, or telling the doctor what type of mushroom that was eaten, can help in diagnosis and treatment.

Eating poisonous Amanita mushrooms can cause abdominal pain, cramping, vomiting, diarrhea, liver damage, and even death. Abdominal symptoms may be delayed eight to 12 hours following consumption of the mushrooms, so victims may not initially connect their symptoms to the wild mushrooms. Initial gastrointestinal symptoms may subside, but serious liver damage may still occur, and some victims may suffer total liver failure and require a liver transplant to survive.

Eating other types of wild mushrooms can produce different symptoms of poisoning, including numbness, tingling, psychotic episodes (hallucinations), headache, profuse sweating, depression, and cardiovascular symptoms.

Parents should keep small children away from wild mushrooms and make sure they do not eat or put wild mushrooms in their mouths.

Mushrooms that grow in other countries may differ from mushrooms that grow wild in New York State. "Mushrooms, like trees and wildflowers are different in different parts of the world" says Horn. "Rules for identifying edible wild mushrooms that apply to mushrooms in Asia or Europe may not apply to mushrooms found in the northeastern U.S."

Amanita bisporigera mushrooms, also known as 'Death or Destroying Angel' Photo used with permission from Michael W. Beug, Introduction to Mushrooms, Evergreen State College, Olympia WA

Amanita bisporigera mushrooms, also known as "Death or Destroying Angel" taken in Southern Vermont; Photo used with permission from Beug, Michael W., Introduction to Mushrooms, Evergreen State College, Olympia WA.