Sinlung /
26 June 2014

Mizoram Grapples With Killer Mushrooms

By Adam Halliday
One handicap is the lack of scientific information about mushroom species.
One handicap is the lack of scientific information about mushroom species.

Summary

An unprepared government has issued advisories asking people to be careful because mushrooms have long been part of the Mizo diet.

M_Id_426769_Tripura
M_Id_441971_Mizoram

Aizawl, Jun 26 : An unfamiliar tragedy struck a family in the Mizoram village of Ngaizawl in the end of May; three members died after eating mushrooms for dinner. On their way home from a feast, they had picked and taken home some wild mushrooms. Nianglammawia, 30, and Awingaihdini, 28, parents of five, and the former’s sister-in-law Chianglammangi, 37, vomited blood the next day and died in a hospital.

Then last week in Sentetfiang, a small village near Mizoram’s Myanmar border, Roneihmawia, a 10-year-old schoolboy, gathered five kinds of mushrooms from the woods and took them home. His family boiled them and invited two neighbours for dinner. The boy and later a neighbour, Renthluaii, died after showing the same symptoms as those at Ngaizawl.

Other members of Roneihmawia’s family including his father, Malsawma, had to be treated at a health facility. Lawngtlai district’s chief medical officer Dr H C Thangkima said they are stable now after having vomited, suffered stomacha ache and passed dark blue urine and stool. “Their condition seems to have been worsened by the initial treatment they took. Besides consulting a quack, they also took some home remedies,” the CMO said.

An unprepared government has issued advisories asking people to be careful because mushrooms have long been part of the Mizo diet, often picked from forests. Monday’s advisory issued by the principal chief conservator of forests said poisonous mushrooms lead to kidney, respiratory and gastric problems and can be fatal and urged people to consult doctors in case of symptoms.

The health department has asked for samples of the mushrooms thought to be responsible for the deaths. While the community at Ngaizawl has been asked to look for the same kinds as eaten by Nianglammawia’s family, Dr H C Thangkima said his staff have collected three of the five kinds Roneihmawia’s family had eaten and are sending these to Aizawl, along with blood samples.

“These are the first reports of deaths caused by mushrooms in Mizoram,” said Dr Pachuau Lalmalsawma, nodal officer for the state’s Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme.

One handicap is the lack of scientific information about mushroom species. Health officials have so far been able to identify 11 harmful chemicals in mushrooms, some fatal, some intoxicating (see box).

Dr Pachuau Lalmalsawma recalls an incident from about 15 years ago when a family in Kolasib town ate some wild mushrooms. “They complained of hallucinations, they said they thought themselves to be celebrities and some had the sensation of flying. That was the only other time mushrooms have caused what can be called a problem. Otherwise it’s part of our diet and by and large they are just delicious,” he said.

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