Mushrooms kill two seniors

11/11/2012 12:00 AM

11/13/2012 8:21 AM

Two residents of a Loomis senior care facility died and four other people were hospitalized after consuming soup with wild mushrooms harvested by a caregiver, the Placer County Sheriff's Department reported.

Sheriff's Lt. Mark Reed said Saturday that deputies were called at 10 a.m. Friday to the Gold Age Villa, a care home for the elderly on a rustic, tree-shaded property, tucked amid a community of equestrian estates along Horseshoe Bar Road.

"We got a report that some people had consumed some poisonous mushrooms," Reed said. "We responded out to the facility and interviewed people to make sure there was no foul play. There wasn't any It was an accident."

Reed said a caregiver who prepared the meal with the mushrooms was among the six people sickened. The two residents who died were identified as Barbara Lopes, 86, and Teresa Olesniewicz, 73, he said. The caregiver and three residents were hospitalized, he said.

Reed called the event a tragedy, in which the caregiver "just didn't know" the mushrooms were poisonous. Last year, the California Department of Public Health warned that collecting and eating wild mushrooms can cause cramping, vomiting and diarrhea as well as liver and kidney failure.

According to state data, there were more than 1,700 reported cases of mushroom ingestion in California in 2009 and 2010. They included 10 cases of serious poisoning and two deaths, including an 82-year-old Santa Barbara man who gathered wild mushrooms to sauté with his steak.

While the type of mushrooms consumed in the Loomis tragedy were unknown, two varieties commonly found in California – the Amanita ocreata and Amanita phalloides, dubbed the "destroying angel" and "death cap," respectively – are considered particularly dangerous.

Public health officials say people who gather mushrooms shouldn't eat them unless they have been examined by an expert for safety. People who develop symptoms after eating wild mushrooms should seek immediate medical attention and contact the California Poison Control System at (800) 222-1222.

The incident at Gold Age Villa is being investigated by the California Department of Social Services, which licenses senior care facilities.

Agency spokesman Michael Weston said Saturday the facility was licensed in 2007 to operator Raisa Oselsky as a residential care home for six residents age 60 and over. He said the facility was cited for having excessively hot water on its last inspection March 12 and that the deficiency was corrected.

A brochure and website for Gold Age Villa advertise a "family atmosphere" in a facility offering "loving care and living with respect, dignity and independence." Its services include 24-hour staff, "balanced home made meals" and "group activities."

The home's website has posted cards and letters from family members whose loved ones stayed there. They include messages from a daughter thanking the staff "for your care of Mom this past year" and from children who wrote of their father, "We know he enjoyed being there. We know he was in good hands."

A sign on a sloped driveway leading up to the care home Saturday pleaded for privacy: "Private Property. Please – No news crews, cameramen or reporters at this time."

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