Check for health warnings before going near waterways
Recreational water users are being reminded to avoid contact with some Canterbury and South Canterbury waterways.
Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Ramon Pink says health warnings remain in place where there’s potentially toxic algae (cyanobacteria) in a number of areas around the regions.
“Make sure you check the health warnings for toxic algae before going near any waterways. And if in doubt, keep out.” Dr Humphrey says.
Harmful effects of toxic algae on humans and animals
Algal blooms can produce toxins harmful to humans and animals. People should avoid contact with the water where algal blooms are present until further notice. The algae is particularly dangerous for dogs.
“Animals that show signs of illness after coming into contact with toxic algae should be taken to a vet immediately. Symptoms of cyanobacteria poisoning in dogs include panting, lethargy, muscle tremors, twitching and convulsions – which usually occur within 30 minutes of exposure.”
Dr Pink says people who come into contact with toxic algae can also experience unpleasant symptoms. “Exposure may cause skin rashes, nausea, stomach cramps, tingling and numbness around the mouth and fingertips. If you experience any of these symptoms visit your doctor immediately and please let your doctor know if you have had contact with the water,” Dr Pink says.
People should never drink water from a waterway where a health warning is in place and they should also avoid eating fish and shellfish taken from areas where warnings are in place. “Boiling the water does not remove the toxin. If fish are eaten, remove the gut and liver and wash in clean water.”
Pets should be taken to a vet immediately if they are showing signs of illness after coming into contact with algal mats or affected waterways.
Facts about cyanobacteria
- The algae occur naturally but can increase rapidly during warmer months.
- Avoid all contact if the water is cloudy, discoloured, or has small globules suspended in it.
- Some cyanobacteria also appear as dark brown/black mats attached to rocks along a riverbed, and have a strong musty smell.
- Not all cyanobacteria blooms are visible to the naked eye and toxins can persist after the blooms disappear.
- Cyanobacteria concentrations can change quickly with changing environmental conditions such as wind.
- Avoid contact with the water if a health warning is in place.
Source: Canterbury District Health Board media release (21st December 2017).Published on Thursday, December 21st, 2017, under News