CLEVELAND - Doctors have issued warnings after toxic wild mushrooms were blamed recently for hospitalizing a dozen people in northeastern Ohio.
Doctors at University Hospitals in Cleveland, where many of the victims are being treated, advise against picking any wild mushrooms because of the risk of eating a type called amanita, a common woodland variety that can cause severe liver damage or even death.
"There's a potential for significant harm if the community is not alerted somehow," Dr. Pierre Gholam told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer for a story (bit.ly/T8FLyz) published Friday. He's a liver-disease specialist treating some of the patients at University Hospitals Case Medical Center.
Gholam said the mushroom's poison is not deactivated by cooking, freezing or boiling. He advises not eating any mushrooms picked by friends or family member and says it's better just to buy them at the store.
Three people are in intensive care at the hospital after eating chicken cacciatore made with mushrooms that a friend picked. A fourth man who shared the dish with them was treated at another hospital and released.
One of them snapped a picture of the mushrooms so doctors were able to confirm that they were the toxic amanita -- a species nicknamed the "death cap."
The mushrooms cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and can lead to liver damage so severe that a transplant is necessary. In some cases, they're deadly.
Dr. Lawrence Quang, medical director of the Northern Ohio Poison Center, said the increase in northeast Ohio cases began last fall when a man cooked mushrooms he'd picked and passed them out at a bar, poisoning himself and about a dozen other people. Four ended up with severe hepatitis.
"There's no distinguishing odor or taste," Quang said. "I understand they actually taste pleasant."
Gholam said his hospital had seen only one case of mushroom poisoning in the eight years before the bar incident.
The recent increase, Gholam said, could be attributed to a damp fall and spring, which increases growth of all fungi, including the poisonous greenish mushroom that is larger than the white button mushrooms commonly found in grocery stores.