Deadly mushrooms spark Melbourne health warning

A health warning has been issued for Victorians to avoid gathering wild mushrooms following widespread rain across the state.

Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Angie Bone today issued a warning about Poisonous Death Cap mushrooms which have begun to sprout much earlier than usual due to ideal growing conditions.

“The Death Cap is extremely toxic and responsible for 90 per cent of all mushroom poisoning deaths. Death can follow within 48 hours from serious liver damage,” Dr Bone said.

“While commercially-sold mushrooms are safe, poisonings can occur when people gathering wild mushrooms inadvertently include toxic species. Poisonous mushrooms may appear very similar to edible varieties.”

The mushroom season begins when rain encourages growth of the fungi while the earth is still warm.

Two toxic mushrooms are the Death Cap fungus, Amanita phalloides and the Yellow Staining mushroom, Agaricus xanthodermus.

The Death Cap is the most dangerous variety, usually found near deciduous trees and especially around oasks in some Melbourne suburbs and rural areas.  The mushrooms range from a light olive green to a greenish yellow colour. The gills are white, and the base of the stem is surrounded by a cup-shaped sac.

The commonly found Yellow Staining mushroom turns yellow when the cap or stem is bruised by a thumbnail.

Dr Bone said anyone who becomes ill after eating mushrooms should seek urgent medical advice and, if possible, take samples of the whole mushroom for identification.

“Symptoms of poisoning can include violent stomach pains, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms may subside after a day or two – but this doesn’t necessarily mean recovery,” Dr Bone said.

“If you have any doubts about a species of fungus or mushroom, don’t eat it. Cooking, peeling or drying these mushrooms does not remove or inactivate the poison.”