News Release

Health Department of Northwest Michigan
serving Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego Counties
Visit us at www.nwhealth.org


False Morels causing serious illness this season

May and June is morel hunting season in Michigan, and every spring there are individuals who become ill after eating mushrooms obtained from amateur mushroom hunts.  This spring the Children's Hospital of Michigan Poison Control Center (PCC) is reporting unusually high numbers of patients with severe toxicity resulting in hospitalization after eating mushrooms that look like morels.

These so-called false morel mushrooms contain the toxin gyromitrin which can cause severe illness. Onset of illness is usually six to 48 hours after eating.  Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dizziness, headache, muscle cramps, bloating, and fatigue.  Untreated, people may go on to develop confusion, delirium, seizures and coma.  The gyromitrin is toxic to the liver and can lead to right sided abdominal pain, hepatitis and jaundice (yellow skin) within 48 hours and in serious cases increased bruising and bleeding due to loss of blood clotting factors. False morels include the Beefsteak (Gyromitra esculenta) and Early Morel (Verpa bohemica) mushrooms.

True morels (Morchella species) are normally edible, but they too can result in illness if a large amounts are eaten, they are undercooked or eaten raw, or if they are eaten with alcoholic beverages.  People can become sensitized to true morels over time, having eaten them without problems in the past but now sickened by them.  For true morels, toxicity begins within a few hours and consists of nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain lasting less than 24 hours.<,/p>

Individuals with questions or concerns regarding wild mushrooms can call the PCC at 1-800-222-1222. Individuals who have eaten wild mushrooms and develop any of the symptoms described, should see a physician immediately.  Bringing one of the mushrooms to the doctor, or a picture of the mushroom, will help the physician provide the proper treatment. (Place mushroom in a paper bag, they will fall apart in plastic).  The PCC can accept emailed pictures for identification and can provide advice for treatment. A fact sheet on Morel mushrooms is available on the MDCH website at www.michigan.gov/toxics.


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