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CDC Reports 14 Cases Of Wild ‘Death Cap’ Mushroom Poisoning In Northern California

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals 14 incidences of wild "Death Cap" mushroom poisoning in December 2016, following an unusually large bloom of the Amanita phalloides fungus in November.

According to the health protection agency, three out of the 14 patients required liver transplants, including an 18-month old girl who was most affected by the toxic effect of A. phalloides. Thirteen of the patients eventually recovered, but the child regrettably suffered permanent brain damage.

The wild mushrooms responsible for the greater San Francisco Bay area poisonings were obtained in the mountains of Northern California.

Poisoning Incidences

The first reported case involved a 37-year old man who picked up two wild mushrooms from the mountain. The man cooked and ate one of the foraged mushrooms, only to suffer from nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting about 10 hours later, and experienced abdominal discomfort less than 21 hours since he ingested the fungus. A mycologist positively identified the uneaten mushroom as A. phalloides and the patient was quickly treated with aggressive intravenous (IV) fluid treatment due to dehydration — one of death cap's symptoms — but had to stay in the hospital for six days until his condition improved.

Perhaps the biggest impact of the outbreak occurred in one family and a friend who ingested the A. phalloides over dinner. A 26-year old woman received mushrooms from a stranger earlier in the day and served the cooked mushrooms to her 28-year old husband, 38-year old sister, 49-year old female friend, and 18-month old daughter. All five experienced nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, gastrointestinal distress, and injury to their livers.

All five of them were admitted to the hospital within two days of ingestion and received aggressive IV fluid treatment, but two patients — the toddler and her aunt — suffered from irreversible hepatic failure. Both patients received liver transplants but, while the adult recovered, the 18-month old child suffered additional complications to the brain.

Eight other cases were reported shortly afterward, including a case of four males aged 19 to 22 who assumed that they were eating psychedelic mushrooms foraged from the wild.

Death Cap Poisoning Outbreak

According to the CDC's June 2 release of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), Death Cap mushrooms are the leading cause of deaths from wild mushroom poisoning all over the world, but only a few cases have been reported annually until recently, which is why the agency considers the December 2016 incidences as an outbreak.

According to the report, the Bay Area Mycological Society informed the California Poison Control System (CPCS) on Nov. 28 that there was a large bloom of the deadly mushroom in the area after the abundant rainfall was followed by warm weather.

The agency strongly cautions people against eating foraged mushrooms from the wild unless they have been properly identified as safe and edible. If in doubt, seek the assistance of mushroom experts before eating or serving wild mushrooms.

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