Taranaki DHB’s Medical of Health reinforces public health message following toxic algae warning

16 November 2018

Taranaki DHB’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr Jonathan Jarman, has a health warning for people heading to their favourite swimming spots over the warmer summer months.

He says “Unfortunately hotter weather can also mean that certain freshwater algae (called cyanobacteria or blue-green algae) grow very quickly and bloom creating potential health risks both to people and animals. 

The algae can produce toxins which are harmful to health.

People who drink water containing elevated levels of toxins may experience headaches, fever, flu-like symptoms, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

People who swim in contaminated water may get itchy and irritated eyes and skin, as well as other hay fever-like allergic reactions. Usually the symptoms start within a few hours and do not last long.

Little is known about the long-term health effects of cyanobacterial toxins so it is best to avoid them completely.

When a health warning is in place, people are advised not to paddle, wade, swim, fish, or participate in any recreational activity that might involve significant contact with these cyanobacteria blooms, scums, or mats. To check the latest health warnings go to the Land Air Water Aotearoa LAWA site www.lawa.org.nz/explore-data/taranaki-region/swimming/kaupokonui-river-at-beach-domain/swim-site

Anyone suffering illness after contact with cyanobacteria blooms should seek medical assistance or phone Healthline at 0800 611 116.

Health warnings also advise people to keep their pets (e.g. dogs) and livestock out of areas of lakes or rivers affected by blooms. Dogs are at the most risk as they like to play and scavenge in the water. Dog deaths associated with potentially toxic algae living on the bottom of rivers have become increasingly common around New Zealand.”

More information is available at the following websites:

 

Last updated: Friday, November 16, 2018

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