Dozens in NJ sickened by poison mushrooms this summer
Mushroom poisonings are on the rise in New Jersey.
The New Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers Medical School said 45 cases in 15 counties have been reported since July, some resulting in emergency room visits.
Medical Director Diane Calello says there are some toxic species that grow here in New Jersey, one of which can cause liver failure — something that is difficult to treat.
The most common early signs of mushroom poisoning are vomiting and diarrhea, says Calello.
But she says there are toxic mushrooms that are less common in New Jersey that can cause seizures, hallucinations and kidney failure.
"That's why we put out these warnings. We do see these cases. We see people who pick something that seems edible and benign in their backyard and then they die," she said.
A lot of it comes from people who pick a mushroom that they've seen elsewhere, maybe in another country or another part of the United States. She says they see the mushroom and think it looks edible and safe but in New Jersey it could actually be a mushroom that kills you.
Mushrooms that are bad for the liver are known as amanita mushrooms. Calello says the toxins are heat stable, meaning that no matter how much you cook it, that toxin is still going to be in that mushroom.
Most of the mushroom poisoning cases reported to the N.J. Poison Control Center have been patients ages nine months to 70 years old.
Calello says it's not surprising to see younger patients because children are intrigued by mushroom patches growing in backyards. As they are crawling or toddling around, they tend to put things in their mouths out of curiosity.
But as patients get older, she says, it's the foraging behavior. So an older person wants to make a meal and use fresh mushrooms from their yard. Then that person picks the mushroom, eats it and gets sick.
"That is the behavior we are really trying to discourage," says Calello.
If you have questions about wild mushrooms or you think you've been poisoned by a wild mushroom, you can call the New Jersey Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. There are hotline specialists waiting to take your call 24/7.
Bottom line, says Calello, "if you want to eat mushrooms, buy them in the supermarket."