At least four people were hospitalized in New Jersey this week after eating wild mushrooms, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Wednesday.
An onslaught of rainy conditions in the region has resulted in mushrooms popping up in astonishing numbers, making nonpoisonous fungi even more difficult to differentiate from toxic ones.
"We always assume that nothing is edible," said Rebecca Boylan, a consumer horticulturalist associated with Penn State University.
Mushrooms tend to thrive in decaying material in woods, mulch beds or lawns where buried roots are rotting, Boylan told The Inquirer.
Children can often fall victim to thinking mushrooms are safe to eat, according to the Poison Control Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Even adults who are confident in their abilities to discern which mushrooms are edible can make mistakes.
Most deaths occur from eating a genus of mushroom called Amanitas or "death caps," which can "easily be mistaken for nonpoisonous species," according to CHOP.
Symptoms can range from drowsiness and confusion to liver and kidney damage, but most cases lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain, according to the report.