The rainy season in Yunnan is a time when many people venture into the province's hills and mountains in search of wild edibles. These often include ferns and greens, but perhaps the most popular and prized finds are wild mushrooms.
Unfortunately, every year inexperienced foragers and unscrupulous vendors end up poisoning themselves or others when they collect toxic fungi. Such is the case this year in Yuxi (玉溪), where four people have died and dozens of others have checked into hospitals reporting serious complications from eating wild mushrooms.
Investigators originally thought 38 cases of severe poisoning occurring over the past several days in Huaning County (华宁县) were related. They have since concluded many of the patients consumed different types of mushrooms collected or purchased in various places. No single species of mushroom has been singled out for blame.
Those made ill by eating mushrooms describe a variety of symptoms including abdominal distension, diarrhea, nausea, dizziness, muscle aches, vomiting and hallucinations. Four people, all of the them men, have died from complications after ingesting mushrooms, including one man who checked himself out of the hospital against doctor's orders.
At least 800 species of edible mushrooms have been identified in Yunnan. However, in addition to those suitable for human consumption, hundreds of other varieties, many of them unidentified by science, grow in the forests of Yunnan.
Mushroom poisonings in the province are not uncommon during the typically rainy months of July and August. Since 1978, the deaths of more than 400 people have been attributed to eating mushrooms just in the mountains around Dali (大理).
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