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Weil’s Disease & Blue Green Algae

Weil’s Disease

Participation in all forms of water-based activity involves a very low risk of contracting Well’s disease (Leptospirosis). The disease responds well to early treatment. Left untreated it has occasionally proved fatal. Your child will be issued with a card giving Information about the disease. Please keep it in a safe place. Early symptoms of the disease are similar to influenza and include headache, temperature and joint or muscle pains. If your child develops any of the symptoms noted within three weeks of participating in a session you should consult your doctor immediately.

Blue Green Algae

The water at Lackford Sailing Base, in common with many other inland water areas, has been identified as being prone to potentially toxic blue-green algae (BGA) contamination. This is not a new problem – experts have found this algae in fossil remains. RYA advises that the probable causes of the current increase in algal levels are the generally warmer weather conditions and increased farming nutrients entering water areas. There is no easy method by which these nutrients may be removed.

The BGA (Cyanobacteria) are not plants and can produce many bacterial-like toxins. The toxins have been identified as a Neurotoxin (Anatoxin A) attacking the nervous system, a Hepatotaxin (Microsystin) causing acute liver damage, and an Endotoxin (Contact Dermatitis) which causes a skin rash. In its most dangerous form, in quantity, its toxins have caused death in cows, sheep and dogs which have drunk significant concentrations at the waters edge.

Although death has been caused in animals by as little as licking the scum and deposits off their fur when coming ashore after venturing into water containing BGA, the effects on humans to date have been limited to illness rather than death. The greatest danger is in shallow water where wind or current driven concentrations of algae tend to build up. The scum both immediately above and at the waters edge is a particular source of toxic material.

The water at Lackford Sailing Base is currently treated under a contract paid for by St Edmundsbury Borough Council which, in its first year of operation, enabled YPA to continue sailing throughout the season. In spite of this treatment some risk to health remains but the Royal Yachting Association advises that this can regarded as acceptable subject to adherence to simple precautions.

Weil’s Disease & Blue Green Algae

The following categories of user are at particular risk when water is affected by BGA – paddlers, trainees doing capsize drill, swimmers (including immersion sports), small children, pregnant women, domestic animals (if allowed to play in the water, or to drink it).

Blue Green Algae Code of Conduct.

At the discretion of the committee sailing may continue when there is a risk of blue-green algae (BGA), but at all such times members should follow this code of conduct. The committee reserves the right to exclude for any particular session any member who fails to follow the code when it is in operation.

The code

  • All using the water should wear clothing which covers the skin on the trunk, legs and arms in order to minimise contact with algae or algal scum.
  • The minimum time should be spent in shallow water launching and recovering boats.
  • There is to be no deliberate capsizing.
  • After coming ashore all water users should hose themselves down to avoid bringing algae and scum into the changing rooms.
  • Do not store wet clothes. All clothing should be washed and thoroughly dried on returning home.
  • Avoid horseplay in or near water.

What the YPA committee will do

The committee will notify members – whenever possible in writing – as soon as it is reasonably practicable after it has been informed that tests reveal there is a risk of BGA.

Sailing will not take place if YPA has been advised that it should cease temporarily.

During periods when there is a risk, before the start of each session the officers of YPA/instructors will inspect the water (particularly at the area/s where the dinghies are launched and against the lee shore). Sailing will only be permitted provided there are no visible signs of BGA.

What members/parents are asked to do

Follow the code of conduct at all times when there is a risk of BGA.

Keep an eye out for any sign of algae, particularly by the waters edge, and notify an instructor or other club official at once if they think that they have seen any.

Footnote- Members should be aware that because of the difficulty in monitoring BGA and the speed at which algal blooms can develop there may be circumstances in which although the committee and instructors have taken all reasonable care those sailing are at greater than normal risk. In such cases the committee of YPA cannot accept responsibility for any illness or injury caused by exposure to BGA.

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