MMWR report on Amanita Poisoning - comments on editorial

Paul F. Lehmann, Ph.D. lehmann at
Sat Jun 7 20:44:42 EST 1997

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, USA, have just
published a report on Amanita poionings that can be seen at their web site
using Adobe Acrobat Reader at their web site:  


The citation is:  MMWR Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report.  June 6, 1977,
Vol 46, No. 22.  pages 489-492.

The cases that are described include those of 4 adults in Northern
California occuring in January 1997.  There were 9 persons overall who
needed hospitalization around that time.

Note the "profundity" of the Editorial comment:
  "Unintentional ingestion of A. phalloides can be prevented by ensuring
that wild mushrooms are not eaten unless identified as nonpoisonous by a
competent mycologist."  

It made me think of other types of really helpful advice.
E.g.  "Unintentional family stress associated with teenagers can be
prevented by ensuring that you don't have children." 

I did not think the comment about guide books was fair:
   "Field guides do not provide sufficient details to differentiate toxic
from nontoxic species." 

While it may be true for some field guides, several are extremely good. 
The problem is that, when field guides are used,
mycologically-inexperienced adults often do not read the fine print, they
mainly look at the pictures.  We had a situation near here where a severe
poisoning followed eating a mushroom because there were no pictures in a
guide showing a poisonous mushroom that looked like the one being eaten.
(i.e., so it must have been OK to eat!).  

   I don't think a person checking all! the key identifying
characteristics listed in DW Fischer and AE Bessette, 1992, Edible Wild
Mushrooms of North America: A Field-to-Kitchen Guide (Univ Texas Press,
Austin) would make this mistake.  This is a book I recommend beginners who
just want to eat their fungal prey.

Paul Lehmann
Medical College of Ohio

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