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Health warning for algae found at Downham Market nature reserve

Walkers are being urged to stay away from flood waters at a popular Downham beauty spot because of fears over the presence of toxic algae.

The Willows nature reserve, which flooded last week, has been hit by the problem which can cause of range of health issues in both animals and humans.

Last December, the borough council issued a warning over Twitter about the algae, advising that both humans and animals avoid going near the water at the nature reserve.

The Willows Nature Reserve has toxic algae (44519960)
The Willows Nature Reserve has toxic algae (44519960)

A council spokesman said: “We’ve followed the advice and the council is putting up warning signs and monitoring and the condition has improved since December even though the algae is still there.”

Some residents are concerned about the effect of the algae on the wildlife that lives at the Willows such as the moorhens and the ducks.

The Willows Nature Reserve has toxic algae (44519957)
The Willows Nature Reserve has toxic algae (44519957)

A DEFRA spokesperson has said: “Wildlife usually stays away when this type of algae is present, although it’s unusual to see this in the winter, it is a lot more common in the summer.”

Local wildlife has been seen swimming in the water all year round, with some ducks and moorhens sailing along the green surface of the pond seemingly unaffected.

Dog walkers have been advised to keep their pets on leads in the area.

The algae is currently covering around 50 per cent of the surface of the pond instead of all of it, as was seen last year.

Blue-green algae is potentially toxic to both humans and animals.

The algal bloomcan cause ill health through skin, eye contact or if it is swallowed.

Conditions such as blistering, dermatitis, eye irritation, abdominal pain and nausea can all be a result of coming into contact with the water.

Blue-green algae is a natural part of a freshwater ecosystem but its presence is potentially harmful to humans, animals, birds and fish.

Warm weather followed by heavy rain and then further warm, still conditions cause blue-green algae to appear suddenly and there is no way of removing the algae from the water once it is established.

Not all species of blue-green algae are harmful but the borough council recommends that people avoid it.

NHS advice suggests the deaths of both dogs and livestock have been connected to blue green algae when they appear to have only entered the water and the shores of lochs which were affected with algal scum.

They added: “Persons who find blue green algae in water should avoid all contact and ensure in particular that children and pets are kept away.”

Medical attention should be sought by anyone who is affected by blue-green algae.

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