Toxic algae: more deadly than cobra venom and delicious to your dog

[USA] It’s not just the heat that’s been worrying Dr Mark Heath these past summer nights.

The black, velvety mats of algae on the sides of the Hutt River, near Wellington, are what’s preying on the scientist’s mind.

More toxic than cobra venom, it takes only a coin-sized piece to kill a 20kg dog, Heath said.

“And if we talk about a 20kg dog we could just as easily be talking about a 20kg child.”

Cyanobacteria – or toxic algae – has been the scourge of the capital’s summer with the Greater Wellington Regional Council twice urging swimmers and their pets to stay away from the river.

Heath, the council’s freshwater scientist, is disappointed that despite the warnings, at least two dogs have already died after eating the algae. Nationwide, about 150 dogs have been killed in the past 15 years, he said.

It’s an agonising death and, although he said it was unlikely, he feared what would happen to a child who “got some on their hands” or ate some of the algae.

“This scares me just about every night when we have big algal blooms.”

For now, scientists don’t know exactly what the algae could do to humans, but Heath said one thing was certain, should a person swallow a piece of the floating bloom.

“There’s a really big risk that someone could become very ill or sick.”

The algae was a neurotoxin and killed by blocking nerves from communicating to each other. In extreme cases, dogs die within 30 minutes of eating the algae.


Photo: The slimy toxic algae benthic cyanobacteria on a rock in the Hurunui River.

View original article at: Toxic algae: more deadly than cobra venom and delicious to your dog





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