A South Coast resident was one of 10 people hospitalised throughout NSW this month after eating poisonous wild mushrooms.
The spate of hospitalisations across the state in February has caused NSW Health to issue a warning about the dangers of foraging for, and eating, mushrooms growing wild.
NSW Health director of health protection Dr Jeremy McAnulty said the case number was unseasonably high; with no cases recorded in NSW for last February and only three cases in February 2013.
‘‘We have a surveillance system in our emergency departments so we track the reasons why people are coming in for emergency presentations,’’ he said.
‘‘So we noticed there was an increase in the number of people presenting with illness after reporting that they’d eaten wild mushrooms.
‘‘Four of the patients were recorded in Nepean Blue Mountains, two in Western Sydney, three in Central Coast and one in the Illawarra Shoalhaven.’’
Dr McAnulty said it was not evident whether those poisoned had been searching for hallucinogenic ‘magic’ mushrooms or simply looking to add some earthiness to a meal.
‘‘We suspect it’s a bit of both - anecdotally in the past there have been reports of people seeking magic mushrooms,’’ he said.
‘‘However there’s also been a trend in recent times of people foraging for food so that might play a role too.
‘‘Either way, people need to know that with thousands of different mushroom species, it’s difficult for even the experts to know which ones are safe to eat so the average forager is really running a risk.
‘‘It’s important to remember that commercially available mushrooms are safe to eat.’’
Dr McAnulty said eating poisonous mushrooms could cause stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. The most toxic species could even kill - with poisonous death cap mushrooms esponsible for the deaths of two people who’d eaten them at a party in Canberra in January 2012.
‘‘They can cause liver or kidney failure even a few days after people have eaten them which can be extremely serious, even fatal,’’ he said.
‘‘However in the cases this month the symptoms have been cramps and vomiting, with only four of the 10 having to be admitted to hospital overnight and then allowed to go home.’’
Dr Brett Summerell, deputy executive director at the Royal Botanic Gardens said mushroom production was greatest between March and June, but the recent wet and humid conditions had caused the season to kick in early.
Anyone experiencing any symptoms following wild mushroom ingestion, please contact the NSW Poisons Information Centre on 131126.