Four residents of a California nursing home have died after being accidentally fed poisonous mushrooms that were picked on the property.
California health authorities indicate that a worker at the six-bed Gold Age Villa senior care home, in Loomis, California, served the mushrooms to residents without realizing they were poisonous.
The mushrooms were served in a soup on November 8. Of the six residents in the home, the only one who did not fall ill was the one who did not eat the soup.
Residents at the nursing home who developed the food poisoning include Dorothy Mary Hart, 92, Barbara Lopes, 86, Teresa Olesniewicz, 73, and Frank Warren Blodget, 90. State health officials and the Placer County Sheriff’s Department has classified the deaths as an accident.
Lopes and Olesniewicz died on November 9, and the caregiver and three other residents were hospitalized. Of those, Blodget and Hart died later, with Hart having died after being released and placed in another nursing home.
The deaths come as some specialists have reported seeing an increase in mushroom poisonings nationwide. Experts are unsure as to why the numbers have increased in recent years and some theorize that people have been picking their own mushrooms more often due to the bad economy. The mushrooms used in this specific case have not been publicly identified.
Most poisonous mushrooms kill through liver toxicity, caused by the poison amatoxin. It is colorless and odorless and can survive cooking and freezing.
Symptoms can include vomiting and diarrhea, but often do not appear until 12 hours or more after the mushrooms have been consumed. The poisoned liver stops producing the proteins it and the body needs to survive and the liver dies, leading to liver failure and, frequently, death. The death rate, if treated in a timely fashion, is about 15%. However the elderly, those with a history of liver problems, and those with compromised immune systems are likely to be more at risk.
There is no law in California against serving wild mushrooms or other foraged foods to nursing home residents.