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Appeal for caution against poisonous mushrooms

By MAMATA MISHRA
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GUWAHATI, April 26 - The onset of sprouting season for mushrooms, both poisonous and non-poisonous, has once again posed the threat of people falling prey to the poisonous variety due to ignorance and lack of targeted treatment, like every year. Most of the mushroom poisoning cases recorded in the State during this time of the year, require a focused approach to avert fatalities.

�Incidents of mushroom poisoning have been a regular feature in the State every year. Traditionally, it is believed that mushrooms growing after the Bihu is fit for consumption, which holds good only if one knows how to identify the edible ones,� said Pranjal Baruah, general secretary of the Mushroom Development Foundation (MDF).

The MDF has already sent SOS messages to all the deputy commissioners of the State to sound alert in vulnerable areas, especially in the local markets and hilly areas, against the consumption of the locally collected unidentified mushrooms.

�This is a hazardous time when wild poisonous mushrooms take lives in Northeast India. The period already started from the beginning of this month and would continue till May and sometimes it extends to the first week of June. If the DCs initiate some awareness measures in vulnerable areas, it would help in saving many lives,� he said, adding, a case of mushroom poisoning related death has already been reported in Golaghat this season.

Though the consumption of kathphula or mushroom is not new to people, especially in rural areas of the State, extinction of traditional knowledge to identify the edible stuff and the growing market value of the nutrient-packed mushrooms has led to plucking and sale of unidentified varieties, which proves lethal at times. Many a time, blindfold tests are conducted by locals who give the mushrooms to dogs or hen for checking the poison content, which could be dubious due to the varying digestion time of animals and humans.

All poisonous mushrooms belong to two divisions � Basidiomycetes and Ascomycetes. An expert mycologist can only differentiate with surety an edible non-poisonous variety from a non-edible poisonous one. While the experts advise the use of duly cultivated mushrooms, there are some guidelines to distinguish the edibles from the non-edible ones.

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. Irritant symptoms may be delayed for 6-12 hours. Renal and hepatic toxicity occurs between three to six days. A fatal dose is usually two to three mushrooms.

The sign and symptoms include constriction of throat, burning pain in stomach, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, giddiness, and convulsions among others.

�It is important for the doctors to know the history of poisonous mushroom consumption as the symptoms are similar to diarrhoea. In case of a realized wild mushroom consumption, immediate first aid in the house is to administer salt water to induce vomiting and taken to the nearest medical facility at the earliest. A gastric lavage on the patient in conscious state and use of activated charcoal in the treatment prove to be life saving in such cases, if taken up on time. Proper doctors� sensitisation in this regard can be life saving,� said Baruah.

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Appeal for caution against poisonous mushrooms

GUWAHATI, April 26 - The onset of sprouting season for mushrooms, both poisonous and non-poisonous, has once again posed the threat of people falling prey to the poisonous variety due to ignorance and lack of targeted treatment, like every year. Most of the mushroom poisoning cases recorded in the State during this time of the year, require a focused approach to avert fatalities.

�Incidents of mushroom poisoning have been a regular feature in the State every year. Traditionally, it is believed that mushrooms growing after the Bihu is fit for consumption, which holds good only if one knows how to identify the edible ones,� said Pranjal Baruah, general secretary of the Mushroom Development Foundation (MDF).

The MDF has already sent SOS messages to all the deputy commissioners of the State to sound alert in vulnerable areas, especially in the local markets and hilly areas, against the consumption of the locally collected unidentified mushrooms.

�This is a hazardous time when wild poisonous mushrooms take lives in Northeast India. The period already started from the beginning of this month and would continue till May and sometimes it extends to the first week of June. If the DCs initiate some awareness measures in vulnerable areas, it would help in saving many lives,� he said, adding, a case of mushroom poisoning related death has already been reported in Golaghat this season.

Though the consumption of kathphula or mushroom is not new to people, especially in rural areas of the State, extinction of traditional knowledge to identify the edible stuff and the growing market value of the nutrient-packed mushrooms has led to plucking and sale of unidentified varieties, which proves lethal at times. Many a time, blindfold tests are conducted by locals who give the mushrooms to dogs or hen for checking the poison content, which could be dubious due to the varying digestion time of animals and humans.

All poisonous mushrooms belong to two divisions � Basidiomycetes and Ascomycetes. An expert mycologist can only differentiate with surety an edible non-poisonous variety from a non-edible poisonous one. While the experts advise the use of duly cultivated mushrooms, there are some guidelines to distinguish the edibles from the non-edible ones.

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. Irritant symptoms may be delayed for 6-12 hours. Renal and hepatic toxicity occurs between three to six days. A fatal dose is usually two to three mushrooms.

The sign and symptoms include constriction of throat, burning pain in stomach, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, giddiness, and convulsions among others.

�It is important for the doctors to know the history of poisonous mushroom consumption as the symptoms are similar to diarrhoea. In case of a realized wild mushroom consumption, immediate first aid in the house is to administer salt water to induce vomiting and taken to the nearest medical facility at the earliest. A gastric lavage on the patient in conscious state and use of activated charcoal in the treatment prove to be life saving in such cases, if taken up on time. Proper doctors� sensitisation in this regard can be life saving,� said Baruah.

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