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Death cap mushroom.Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service

A critical care doctor is warning British Columbians about a “sinister” deadly mushroom and the importance of health-care providers recognizing signs of poisoning from a variety that is spreading across the Pacific coast of North America.

Dr. Omar Ahmad, head of critical care and emergency medicine for Island Health, says what’s known as the death cap mushroom can easily be mistaken for edible varieties and is responsible for 90 per cent of the world’s mushroom-related fatalities.

A three-year-old boy died in 2016 after consuming a mushroom foraged from a residential street in Victoria, a woman recovered in hospital in Vancouver in 2008 and a man received treatment in Victoria in 2003.

People who eat death caps can experience abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea within six to 12 hours, but a false recovery phase follows up to three days later and can prevent people from seeking medical help.

However, Dr. Ahmad says liver damage progresses in the background before convulsions can occur, leading to coma and death from the mushroom, which also grows in Atlantic Canada.

He says one mushroom cap is enough to kill an adult and the health authority has been educating doctors on what to look for in patients who may think they merely had the flu after their condition begins improving, but is actually deteriorating.

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