Scientists probing mushroom deaths in Assam, toll rises

April 8th, 2008 - 12:45 pm ICT by admin  

Guwahati, April 8 (IANS) The Assam government has ordered a probe by scientists into the deaths of about 20 people after they ate mushrooms, officials said Tuesday. State Agriculture Minister Pramilla Rani Brahma has constituted a probe panel headed by Assam Agriculture University (AAU) Vice Chancellor S.S. Baghel to ascertain the causes of the ‘mushroom deaths’ that have triggered panic in parts of Assam.

“The toll was 13 till Sunday but fresh cases have been reported in the past 48 hours and the number of deaths following consumption of apparently poisonous mushrooms could well be 20 now,” Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma said.

Scientists at AAU probing the deaths say that the mushrooms consumed by the affected people, at least in the eastern Golaghat district, was of a highly poisonous variety called Amanita Phalloides Vaill.

“AAU scientists have said that this particular mushroom variety that is very poisonous grows and flourishes under the season’s first showers,” an official at the State Agriculture Department said.

On Monday, a three-year-old girl died after eating mushrooms in eastern Tinsukia district. Five other members of the family have been admitted to a speciality hospital in the area.

So far, around 30 people are being treated at various hospitals in the state.

Local media reports said those affected after eating mushrooms grown in the wild are extremely poor people who lack other food.

The state government has however denied such reports.

“We are sure poverty is not the reason for those people to consume mushrooms because the areas from where such cases are reported grow vegetables in abundance. But we have called for a socio-economic survey of the affected people,” the health minister said.

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