Guwahati: At least eight members of a family fell ill after consuming ‘poisonous’ mushrooms in Assam’s Sivasagar district. The incident took place in the Sapekhati village of the district on Thursday after the affected people consumed the mushrooms picked from their backyard for lunch. Soon after, they complained of health complications and were rushed to the nearby Rajapukhuri hospital by the neighbours. Without any delay, treatment was started before the toxins got absorbed into the body, which saved the lives of the eight people. At present, their condition is known to be stable.
Three people, including a two-year-old child, died after consuming poisonous mushrooms in Assam’s Golaghat district on April 9. The incident was reported from the district’s Merapani area, where 13 members of five families consumed the mushroom on April 2. Though they were initially taken to the Merapani Community Health Centre, doctors treating them, referred those in critical condition to the Jorhat Medical College and Hospital (JMCH). Unfortunately, three of them, belonging to the same family died, upon reaching the hospital. Consumption of poisonous mushrooms has accounted for several deaths in Assam in the past.
Mushroom-poisoning-related deaths are quite common in the northeastern part of India, especially Assam, with the victims mostly being tea garden labourers. Most of these deaths occur especially in the months of March and April when the death caps flourish in the tea gardens of the state. The people, living in the tea gardens and other backward areas, consider mushrooms, grown in the wild, as a delicacy.
There are no actual records on the loss of lives caused by the consumption of poisonous mushrooms as several such deaths occur in some of the remotest areas and thus go unreported.
In April 2022, a total of 35 patients with mushroom poisoning were admitted to the Assam Medical College and Hospital (AMCH), Dibrugarh in a serious condition. Tragically, 16 of them died within the next two days of being admitted.
All these patients belonged to four nearby Upper Assam districts of Dibrugarh, Sivasagar, Charaideo and Tinsukia, with the majority of them being tea garden labourers.
On the other hand, six people fell critically ill the same month, after consuming poisonous mushrooms in the hill district of Dima Hasao. However, they survived as they got immediate medical attention.
Another 20 people, again mostly tea garden labourers, had lost their lives after consuming poisonous mushrooms in Assam in 2008. It was the worst mushroom poisoning death incident ever reported in Assam.
After the occurrence of this case, the state government immediately constituted a panel to investigate the matter.
The panel, comprising scientists from the Assam Agriculture University (AAU), found a poisonous variety of mushrooms called “Amanita Phalloides”, responsible for the deaths.
Consumption of poisonous mushrooms causes gastrointestinal illnesses such as nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea. Liver failure and death, about nine out of 10 fungi-related deaths are attributable to the death cap mushroom Amanita phalloides.
Though the Assam government has been carrying out awareness campaigns through newspaper advertisements against the consumption of poisonous mushrooms, the messages fail to reach remote places due to various reasons, one of them being illiteracy.