Health Front: Mushroom Poisoning, Opioids and Heart Infections

By DR. JERRY DeCAPUA, Two Rivers Tribune Contributing Writer

• A bumper crop of deadly wild “death cap” mushrooms in Northern California is likely to blame for the poisonings of 14 people in December, reports the CDCs Morbidity and Mortality Report. All 14 recovered, but three required liver transplants, and a toddler suffered permanent brain damage, the researchers stated. The culprit: Amanita phalloides, believed to be the world’s most dangerous mushroom.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone picking wild mushrooms have them evaluated by a specialist before eating them. “Inexperienced foragers should be strongly discouraged from eating any wild mushrooms,” wrote Dr. Kathy Vo, of the University of California Department of Emergency Medicine.

Greater rainfall with warmer subsequent conditions made a substantial contribution to mushroom proliferation and the Amanita phalloides (death cap). Early symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, leading to dehydration and liver damage.

After eating just one that he picked in Santa Rosa, a 37-year-old was hospitalized for six days. A toddler became critically ill after nibbling on a mushroom cap given to her by her mother. The child required a liver transplant and now has permanent neurologic impairment.

• About 20 percent of U.S. weight-loss surgery patients are still using prescription opioid painkillers seven years later, a new study finds.

“Our study does not prove that bariatric surgery causes an increase in opioid use. However, it does demonstrate the widespread use of opioids among postsurgical patients, thereby highlighting the need for alternative pain management approaches,” said study co-author Dr. Anita Courcoulas. She is chief of minimally invasive bariatric and general surgery at the University of Pittsburg Medical center.

The researchers followed 2,000 patients nationwide. Before surgery, 14.7 percent said they regularly used a prescription opioid. Six months after surgery, the rate fell to about 13 percent, but it rose again to 20.3 percent after seven years. Hydrocodone (Vicodin) was the most commonly used opioid medication, followed by Tramadol (Ultram) and Oxycodone (Oxycontin).

• There is another alarming consequence to America’s heroin and prescription painkiller epidemic: an increase in a serious heart infection called endocarditis. Young, injection drug users in rural areas are increasingly being hospitalized for drug dependence and endocarditis, U.S. health officials report.

Unclean needles can introduce bacteria into the body. Those bacteria, note cardiologist, have an attraction to grow on heart valves and can lead to irreversible and deadly results for the heart.

• Frequent pot smokers might be dooming themselves to diseased gums, a new study suggests. “It is well known that frequent tobacco use can increase the risk of periodontal (gum) disease, but it was surprising to see that recreational cannabis users may also be at risk,” said study leader Jaffer Shariff. He is postdoctoral resident in periodontology at Columbia University of Dental Medicine.

For the study, Shariff’s team analyzed data from nearly 2,000 Americans. Of those, 27 percent reported the use of cannabis (marijuana, hash or hash oil). Frequent recreational cannabis users were more likely to have signs of moderate to severe gum disease than less-frequent users. Shariff believes that more recreational use could lead to the beginning of a growing oral public health problem.

“Even controlling for other factors linked to gum disease, such as cigarette smoking, frequent recreational cannabis smokers are twice as likely as non-frequent users to have signs of periodontal disease,” Shariff said.

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June 13th, 2017

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