15 March 2005

Dangerous red tide hits West Coast

People living along the West Coast are being warned not to collect or eat mussels, oysters or other filter-feeding sea creatures after a highly toxic red tide was detected along the coastline.

In a statement on Monday, the department of environmental affairs and tourism said red tide had been detected along the entire West Coast, from Doring Baai southwards, into False Bay and Walkers Bay as far east as Cape Agulhas.

Initial reports to the department indicated that several people have already taken ill with paralytic shellfish poisoning symptoms after apparently eating mussels from the Melkbos/Blouberg area.

Some of the symptoms experienced included tingling and numbness of the mouth, lips and fingers, difficulty in breathing, accompanied by general muscular paralysis and lack of co-ordination.

"Diarrhoetic shellfish poisoning has also been reported from the Hermanus area," said the department in a statement.

These symptoms included vomiting, nausea and diarrhoea.

The department was taking daily water and mussel samples to monitor the situation and determine the levels of toxicity, and anyone suspecting they may have been poisoned was urged to consult a doctor soonest.

Red tide is a result of nutrient-enrichment from intense upwelling of plankton in the sea, causing a lack of oxygen in the organism which becomes poisonous, especially when eaten.


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