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18 September 2014

Warm weather brings shellfish health warning

With warm spring weather likely to see more people out on waterways, the Department of Health is reminding people not to eat shellfish collected from the wild.

Environmental Health Director Jim Dodds said recent tests had found high levels of potentially harmful algal species that can produce shellfish poisoning have been detected in the Swan and Canning Rivers.

"This microscopic algae, which is not visible to the naked eye, can produce toxins which could be absorbed by filter feeding shellfish," Mr Dodds said.

“Eating contaminated shellfish may cause shellfish poisoning, the symptoms of which may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, dizziness, numbness, breathing difficulty or memory loss.

"As a general rule people should not eat wild shellfish from anywhere in WA as their safety cannot be guaranteed."

Shellfish includes oysters, mussels, clams, pipis, scallops, cockles and razorclams.

They do not include fish or crustaceans such as shrimp, prawns, crabs or lobsters.

Mr Dodds said farmed shellfish purchased in WA supermarkets were not affected, as there is a strict quality-assurance program to ensure that they were safe for human consumption.

"Recreational activities including swimming, fishing and boating are not affected by this species of microscopic algae," he said.

"Not all waterways are always monitored for algal blooms. Therefore, if you see or suspect an algal bloom in a waterway, you should report this to Department of Water's ALGALWATCH during office hours on 6250 8064 or to the local council."

Monitoring reports for Swan and Canning rivers microalgae are available on the Swan River Trust website (external site).

Further information on recreational water quality is available at the Public Health website (external site).

Media contact: (08) 9222 4333

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