Toxic algae threat in Waikirikiri/Selwyn River at Glentunnel, New Zealand

The Canterbury District Health Board has issued a health warning after toxic algae (benthic cyanobacteria) were found in the Waikirikiri/Selwyn River at Glentunnel. The affected area should be avoided until the health warning has been lifted. However, the Selwyn District Council has taken measures to protect potable water supplies in the municipal system.

Advice For Travellers

Under the right conditions, toxic algae can increase to excessive levels and adversely affect water quality while posing a risk to livestock, wildlife and human health. Symptoms from drinking water that contain toxic algae can include: headaches, nausea, fever, sore throat, dizziness, stomach cramps, diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, muscle aches, mouth ulcers, and blistering of the lips. Symptoms from swimming and other recreational water activities in contaminated water can include skin rashes and irritated ears and eyes. Unfortunately swimmers may inadvertently swallow drops of the contaminated water.

If the contaminated water is avoided, the risk for the average traveller is basically zero. However, if exposed, and any of these symptoms are present, rinse off the body with clean water and see a healthcare provider right away.

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