22 March 2005

Beware the red tide, warn environmental gurus

The public should remain alert to the toxic red tide and not collect and consume any shellfish along the Western Cape coastline, the department of environmental affairs warned on Friday.

The department said in a statement that a response team, made up of scientists and fisheries compliance officers, was monitoring the situation.

"Scientific samples still indicate high toxicity levels, confirming that the consumption of shellfish from the affected areas remains a serious safety and health risk," said the department.

They said the duration of the red tide could not be predicted, and it would probably remain as long as hot, calm weather conditions prevailed.

Affected shellfish remained toxic for days or weeks and must not be eaten.

The popular rock lobster, or kreef as it is referred to locally, was not affected by the red tide.

Anyone suspecting they may have eaten toxic shellfish was urged to contact a doctor immediately.

Symptoms for red tide, particularly the paralytic shellfish poison type, include a tingling sensation, especially around the lips, gradually spreading to the face and neck.

People who have eaten mussels or other filter-feeders also usually suffer from headaches and dizziness, and talk about a floating or gliding sensation, as well as visual disturbances.

More serious symptoms include not being to walk and in severe cases, the development of muscle paralysis - including respiratory failure - within two to 24 hours after eating.

The effects are fortunately completely reversible.


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