One person has died and eight – including a child – have been hospitalised with ‘severe poisoning’ after eating toxic mushrooms in Victoria.
The COVID lockdown is thought to be behind the poisoning outbreak – as more Victorians forage for mushrooms – mistaking potentially deadly varieties for harmless edible ones.
Recent heavy rains have also fuelled a spike in the fungi emerging in parks and backyards around the state.
Issuing a warning, Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer Angie Bone said the number of people calling the Victorian poisons information centre had doubled this year.
“We also do know that with the stay at home restrictions, a lot of people are trying new things around baking, et cetera,” Dr Bone told reporters.
“And you can speculate that perhaps people have thought that picking wild mushrooms would be a novel thing to do without understanding the severity of the possible outcomes.”
Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea can occur within hours after eating dangerous mushroom varieties like the Yellow Stainer.
The poisonous Deathcap can cause liver failure after 48 hours and cooking or drying them doesn’t make them edible.
The Deathcap is responsible for 90 per cent of all mushroom poisoning deaths.
Both varieties of mushrooms are very similar to those found in supermarkets and have even been found near Melbourne’s Federation Square.
For that reason, Dr Bone encouraged Victorians to have an awareness of pets and to not pick any mushrooms unless in company of an expert.
In the past 30 days, Facebook groups such as Victorian Fungi have seen more than a thousand members joining.
However, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria senior research scientist of mycology Tom May said there is nothing about a mushroom that tells you whether it’s edible or poisonous.
“You need to know exactly what you’re eating – that’s something that takes many years of experience to guide you,” Dr May said.
Councils where mushrooms have been found have been asked to consider putting up signage and removing mushrooms.