Guwahati, Tuesday, March 12, 2019
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2 deaths set alarm bells ringing for mushroom poisoning
Staff Reporter

 GUWAHATI, March 11 - With two mushroom poisoning-related deaths recorded in Demow area of Sivasagar district, experts suspect an early onset of the season of poisonous mushrooms in the State and have sounded alert against consumption of wild mushrooms found in damp areas.

Though it’s a bit early for the poisonous mushrooms to grow, early arrival of rains might have led to the sprouting of the poisonous variety in the areas where fallen tree leaves are damped and decomposed by continuous rainfall, said Pranjal Baruah of Mushroom Development Foundation, Guwahati, who has been creating awareness about edible and non-edible varieties of mushrooms in different parts of the North East for nearly a decade now.

The Sivasagar case must be taken as a trigger to initiate precautionary measures at every district level, Baruah told The Assam Tribune.

Two persons had reportedly died and five others taken ill after consuming mushroom curry in Demow on Saturday.

Though some tribes are believed to have the traditional knowledge of distinguishing between edible and poisonous mushrooms known as kaathphula, the extinction of traditional knowledge and ignorance often leads to mushroom poisoning in the State, which, as times proves lethal.

The growing demand for the nutrient-rich super food also leads to hasty plucking and sale of unidentified variety of mushrooms in the local market, which can be hazardous.

“It’s quite possible that such poisonous varieties have come up in other areas of the State as well. Timely precaution and awareness can save lots of precious lives,” Baruah added.

The period of growth of hazardous variety of mushrooms usually starts in April and continues till May and sometimes it extends to the first week of June. Many a time blindfolded tests of the poisonous variety – like giving it to dogs or chicken – may not hold good due to different digestion timings of animals and human.

All poisonous mushrooms belong to two divisions; Basidiomycetes and Ascomycetes. An expert mycologist can only differentiate with surety between edible non-poisonous variety from a non-edible poisonous one. Experts advise the use of duly cultivated mushrooms.

“Most non-lethal poisonous mushrooms produce symptoms soon after ingestion, whereas Amanita phalloides, commonly known as a ‘death cap’ mushroom, produces life threatening reactions nearly six to 24 hours after ingestion. However, since a mixture of wild mushrooms is usually ingested, early onset of symptoms does not rule out lethal poisoning,” Baruah mentioned.

While irritant symptoms may be delayed for 6-12 hours after consumption, renal and hepatic toxicity occurs between three to six days. A fatal dose is usually two to three mushrooms.

The signs and symptoms include constriction of throat, burning pain in stomach, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, giddiness, convulsions, etc.

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