The California Department of Public Health issued a public health advisory Wednesday warning people not to pick and eat wild mushrooms.
“It is very difficult to distinguish which mushrooms are dangerous and which are safe to eat,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of CDPH in the advisory. “Consuming wild mushrooms can cause serious illness and even death.”
The fungi proliferate during the state’s rainy season, which typically lasts from November through April, so this warning is especially important right now, says Champan.
A total of 1,602 cases of mushroom poisoning were reported between January and November of this year, according to the California Poison Control System.
Of those sickened, 903 were children under the age of six. Eighteen of the victims suffered major health outcomes, including kidney or liver failure; 848 were treated at a healthcare facility and 30 were admitted to an intensive care unit.
Most serious illnesses have come two mushroom species – Amanita ocreata, or “destroying angel,” and Amanita phalloides, or the “death cap.”
While poisonous mushrooms grow in some parts of California year-round, they are found most commonly during fall, late winter or spring, says the health department.
Symptoms of mushroom poisoning include abdominal pain, cramping, vomiting and diarrhea. In the most severe cases, toxins from these fungi can lead to liver damage and death.
“Anyone who develops symptoms after eating wild mushrooms should seek immediate medical attention,” advises CDPH.