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Happy Halloween! State Warns Against Eating Wild Mushrooms

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Photo by tamrich905 via Flickr
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In their annual warning to the public, the California Department of Public Health wanted to remind Californians "that collecting and eating wild mushrooms can cause serious illness and even death." Oddly enough, the message was sent today, the day before Halloween, but officials over the phone say there was no rhyme or reason to the warning's timing.Nevertheless, the department says that 894 cases of mushroom ingestion were reported statewide in 2008. Here's the breakdown:

  • 499 were children under six years of age and usually involved eating a small amount of a mushroom the child found growing in a backyard;
  • 358 individuals were treated at a health care facility;
  • 72 had a moderate health effect, such as diarrhea severe enough to require intravenous fluids;
  • 17 were admitted to the intensive care unit;
  • Five had a major health outcome, such as liver failure leading to coma, liver transplant or renal failure requiring dialysis;
  • One died (a man also died this year in Santa Barbara after eating a mushroom picked in a park)

The deadly mushrooms include varieties Amanita ocreata, or “destroying angel,” and Amanita phalloides, or “death cap.” They're usually found during fall, late winter and spring, but in some areas, can be seen year round.