Amanita phalloides

Victorian poisoned after eating death cap mushrooms picked in a backyard

Island Health issues warning after harvester taken out of province for treatment

Just because something is growing in your backyard doesn’t make it safe to eat.

A Victoria resident learned that the hard way last week after eating one of the deadliest mushrooms found on Vancouver Island.

The victim, only identified as a Victoria resident, was first hospitalized in Victoria, and has now been taken out of province for treatment after likely ingesting a death cap mushroom harvested from a downtown property last last week.

Island Health is warning recreational wild mushroom pickers to use extreme caution after what it is calling a serious poisoning.

“Poisonous mushrooms such as the death cap do not just grow in the forest,” chief medical health Officer Dr. Richard Stanwick said. “They can be found anywhere, including urban areas.”

Scientifically known as Amanita phalloides, the mushrooms are part of a fungus family thought responsible for about 95 per cent of mushroom deaths. The B.C. Centre for Disease Control issued a warning this summer connected to their proliferation.

According to that warning, no one has died from a B.C. death cap mushroom, but Stanwick certainly does not want to be reporting the first.

“We are very concerned that people may not have sufficient experience or knowledge to tell the difference between a poisonous and non-poisonous mushroom,” he said in a media release. “The differences can be very subtle and for some species, only a microscopic examination can distinguish the safe variety. Picking wild mushrooms is an activity that requires real expertise, and experts are amongst the most cautious of foragers.”

Stanwick said samples of mushrooms thought to be Amanita phalloides were collected yesterday from the site where the individual foraged, and will be sent for confirmatory testing.

Death cap mushrooms are not native to B.C. They are believed to have been introduced into the environment in the roots of imported hardwood trees such as Hornbeam.

Tips to stay safe while mushroom hunting, courtesy Island Health:

• If you are unsure or uncertain, 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 the BC Drug and Poison Information Centre at 1-800-567-8911 or 604-682-5050, and seek medical attention, or call 911. In both cases, keep a sample of the mushroom or food that was eaten.

For more information, please go to the BC Centre for Disease Control website and search Death Cap mushrooms.