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Mushrooms Sicken Nine In California ‘Death Cap’ Mushroom Can Look Like Edible Wild Varieties

Thu., Jan. 9, 1997

An outbreak of wild mushroom poisonings has sickened at least nine people in Northern California, with three victims in intensive care Wednesday facing possible liver transplants.

The most seriously ill were felled by the “death cap” mushroom, known technically as Amanita phalloides, which can destroy the liver. One victim was Sam Sebastiani Jr., 31, a member of the Sebastiani wine family.

“It is our strong recommendation that people not pick and eat wild mushrooms,” said Rose Ann Soloway of the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

The death cap, especially in some of its growth stages, can be confused with edible mushrooms, Freedman said. Many poisoning victims have been immigrants, accustomed to picking mushrooms in their homeland.

Last year, 13 people were poisoned by wild mushrooms in the region, including a farm worker who died and a Taiwanese immigrant who needed a liver transplant.

Experts say the death cap has flourished on the West Coast in recent years, extending its range from Fresno to Washington state, and appearing in far greater numbers. But they don’t know why.

“They are coming up this year in places they never did before,” Dr. William Freedman, head of the toxicology committee of the San Francisco Mycological Society, said Wednesday.

“People must understand that the pretty white-and-green mushroom that looks so good and tastes so good will kill,” Freedman said.


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