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No truth to toxic morel mushroom reports

By Blair Yankey - byankey@perutribune.com

A report making the rounds suggesting that three recent Miami County deaths were due to morel mushrooms is as phony as a cement toadstool, according to health officials. 

And how the rumor got started is still a bit of mystery.

Miami County Nurse Michele Siegfred said the Indiana Department of Health on May 12 contacted her to report that residents saw on a “channel 24” that morel mushrooms had caused three fatalities.

“First off, there is no channel 24,” said Siegfred. “The ISDH has called me two different times regarding these deaths, but there is no evidence of that anywhere.”

While morel hunters have been running wild county-wide for the prized fungi for nearly two months, no mushroom-related deaths have reported to the Miami County Health Department, the Miami County Coroner’s Office or the Indiana State Police Post in Peru, Siegfred said.

“I think someone was just trying to start a scare and it spread,” she said. “But we definitely have no reported cases or deaths.”

Siegfred, who’s been a nurse at the Miami County Health Department for 10 years, said there has never been any serious illnesses or deaths related to morel mushrooms since she’s worked at the department.

The best time for morel mushroom hunting is during the spring between April and May, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

During that time, mushroom hunters are crazy for morels, but if they aren’t properly identified, those mushrooms and other foods harvested in the wild can also pose serious health risks, Siegfred said.

According to Siegfred, people who want to sell mushrooms must either be certified as an expert or have an expert examine their mushrooms before they sell them.