Thursday 2 February 2017Media release3 minutes to read
Recreational water users are being reminded to avoid contact with some Canterbury and South Canterbury waterways – with the long weekend almost here.
Dr Alistair Humphrey, Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, says remain in place where there's potentially toxic blue-green 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 this long weekend,” Dr Humphrey says. “And if in doubt, keep out.”
Algal blooms can produce toxins harmful to humans and animals; people should avoid contact with the water until further notice. The algae is particularly dangerous for dogs.
“Animals that show signs of illness after coming into contact with algal mats should be taken to a vet immediately. Symptoms of cyanotoxin poisoning in dogs include panting, lethargy, muscle tremors, twitching and convulsions – which usually occur within 30 minutes of exposure.”
Dr Humphrey says people who come into contact with the mats 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 lake water,” Dr Humphrey 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.
“Boiling the water does not remove the toxin. If fish are eaten, remove the gut and liver and wash in clean water.”
Dr Tim Davie, Environment Canterbury Chief Scientist, says it is not possible to monitor every reach of every streams and rivers in Canterbury so we concentrate on sites where we know people swim.
“We monitor 52 popular freshwater swimming sites in Canterbury and similar number of beaches; the results are shown on the Environment Canterbury and the LAWA websites (Land, Air, Water Aotearoa),” Dr Davie says.
“If you're swimming at non-monitored sites then we encourage you to check the stream bottom for what look like black mats. If there are significant black mats and particularly if bits are breaking off then you should not swim or allow dogs to the site.”
Potentially toxic algae is currently present in the following locations in the region:
Visit the Environment Canterbury website for more information on swimming quality in Canterbury.
You can also contact Community and Public Health for more information on this health warning (03 364 1777).
Page last updated: 27 September 2018
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