World's most lethal mushroom found in Vancouver, health officials warn
A 'death cap' mushroom is shown in a handout photo. (Vancouver Island Health Authority)
A mushroom considered to be the most lethal in the world is now in Vancouver.
Health officials said Thursday that the toxic death cap mushroom had been spotted in the city. The species was found on a private property near West 10th Avenue and Yukon Street, Vancouver Coastal Health told CTV News.
No illnesses have been reported.
Eating the mushrooms, which look similar to other edible varieties, can cause liver and kidney damage and can be fatal, VCH said in a post on its website.
The mushrooms aren't found naturally in B.C. forests, but can be found in urban environments associated with species of imported trees. The mushrooms can be imported on the roots of trees planted in boulevards in Vancouver and Victoria, officials said.
They are known to be in other parts of Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island.
The lethal species is similar to puffball mushrooms, Asian straw mushrooms and other common Asian varieties, VCH said.
The University of British Columbia describes death caps, also known by the Latin name of Amanita phalloides, as European mushrooms that grow on the ground near broadleaved trees.
They are between three and 12 centimetres in diameter, and are rounded at first then open to convex. They can flatten out almost completely. Colour varies but UBC says they have a distinct greenish hue and white gills. Stems are between five and 13 centimetres long. More descriptors and photos are available online.
UBC's Zoology website also has detailed profiles on many mushrooms found in coastal B.C. and other parts of the Pacific Northwest.
Death caps are considered invasive, and can normally be found growing in the fall. However, they're known to be found in July and August on excessively watered lawns.
What to do, signs and symptoms
Anyone who thinks they've eaten a death cap mushroom is advised to call poison control immediately at 1-800-567-8911. They should go straight to the hospital.
Cooking does not inactivate the toxin, a guide from the BC Centre for Disease Control says.
Symptoms of poisoning occur within eight to 12 hours, and include cramping, abdominal pain, vomiting, watery diarrhea and dehydration. A poisoned person may feel better after 24 hours, but the BCCDC warns during this time, the toxins are damaging vital organs.
A second wave of symptoms will hit within 72 hours of consumption, and includes jaundice, liver and kidney failure, delirium, seizures, coma and gastrointestinal bleeding. Organ transplants may be required to prevent death, the BCCDC says.
In fatal cases, death occurs in seven to 10 days.
How to avoid death cap mushrooms
The best ways to stay safe include avoiding areas where death caps are known to grow.
They're especially dangerous to kids and pets, so playtime and walks should not be anywhere near the species.
Parents or pet owners should immediately remove any mushrooms from their child or pet's mouth to avoid risk of swallowing, and if any part of a mushroom was consumed, a doctor or vet should be called.
Homeowners should remove and dispose of death caps in the area by putting them in a municipal compost bin or bagging and disposing of them through regular trash.
They should avoid watering areas where death caps grow.
Home compost may not reach a high enough temperature to kill off their spores, the BCCDC says.
Mowing the lawn won't get rid of the fungus, most of which lives underground. They should be removed before mowing.
Touching death cap mushrooms is not an issue, but anyone who comes in contact with them is advised to thoroughly wash their hands afterwards.