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Deadly mushrooms make early appearance in Victoria, spark health warning

Last Updated Jul 18, 2018 at 10:55 am PDT


VICTORIA – A type of potentially deadly mushroom is making an early appearance around Victoria, prompting a warning from the local health authority.

Island Health says death cap mushrooms, which usually appear in the fall, have already been spotted in several areas on southern Vancouver Island.

Officials say intensive lawn watering may be linked to the early fruiting of the small mushrooms with white gills and a smooth yellow, green or white cap.

Death caps are not native to Canada and grow from the roots of imported trees such as beech, chestnut and English oak, but have recently been found among native Garry oaks.

They can be easily confused with edible mushrooms, such as puffballs and paddy-straw mushrooms, but death cap toxin attacks the liver and kidney, killing as many as 30 per cent of those who eat them.

Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health Chief Medical Health Officer says death caps are found in rural and urban areas and are particularly dangerous to toddlers and pets.

A Victoria toddler died in 2016 after eating one.

“We are concerned about people with limited knowledge of poisonous and non-poisonous mushrooms; the differences can be subtle and even microscopic in some cases,” Stanwick says in the news release.

He says wild mushrooms should only be harvested by those with significant expertise.

The health authority says nausea and vomiting begins about 8 to 12 hours after eating death caps.

Those symptoms seem to disappear after 24 hours and people can feel fine for up to 72 hours, but liver and kidney damage starts three to six days later.

Early treatment in hospital, possibly including a liver transplant, is essential, says the health authority.