DES responds to Inskip gastro seaweed theory

Queensland Health and the Department of Environment and Science have dismissed a theory connecting a recent gastro outbreak at Inskip Point to putrid deposits of seaweed washing up on Cooloola Coast shorelines.

Rainbow Beach businesswoman Rachel Croker said this week the gastro outbreak could have been caused by putrid weed that has been present in the waters off the Cooloola Coast for several weeks.

Thick layers of seaweed coat the shores of Rainbow Beach this morning, Saturday December 5, 2020.
Thick layers of seaweed coat the shores of Rainbow Beach this morning, Saturday December 5, 2020.

Two Inskip Point camp sites were last week closed until at least December 9 as the severe gastro continued to ravage the popular holiday spot.

A DES spokesperson said it would be “unusual” for the seaweed invasion to be linked with the outbreak.

Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service Environmental Health Manager Greg Bennet said while certain algal blooms could potentially cause symptoms if ingested, investigations into the outbreak showed no evidence that it was linked to anything other than a viral illness.

“The data shows a pattern of person-to-person spread of a particularly virulent virus, which causes gastrointestinal distress,” Mr Bennet said.

Thick layers of seaweed coat the shores of Rainbow Beach this morning, Saturday December 5, 2020.
Thick layers of seaweed coat the shores of Rainbow Beach this morning, Saturday December 5, 2020.

The DES spokesperson said Queensland Health believes a person arrived at Sarawak campground in November with the illness in its early stages, and it spread among campers through poor hygiene, close personal contact or use of shared facilities.

“Gastroenteritis is highly infectious and more often related to personal hygiene. To assist in minimising its spread QPWS provides sanitiser in public facilities in the Inskip Recreation Area,” the spokesperson said.

“Campers and visitors are advised to take the necessary precautions to keep themselves, their families and friends healthy, by bringing their own supplies of soap and sanitiser.

“People intending to visit any of Queensland’s camping areas are advised to stay home if they are feeling unwell.

Thick layers of seaweed coat the shores of Rainbow Beach this morning, Saturday December 5, 2020.
Thick layers of seaweed coat the shores of Rainbow Beach this morning, Saturday December 5, 2020.

“Algae bloom events in recreational waters, bathing reserve or foreshores should in the first instance, be referred to local councils.

The spokesperson said seaweed and algae blooms were “particularly prolific” at this time of year.

“Rangers have observed significant levels of seaweed on the eastern side of K’gari (Fraser Island), which has blown onto the mainland coastline.

“These seaweed drifts are in significant levels and are especially odorous, particularly when beginning to decompose.

“Algal blooms and algal drifts are common seasonal events in Queensland’s coastal environments.

“Algae play an important ecological role in marine and estuarine environments.”

More information about algae can be found at www.qld.gov.au/environment/coasts-waterways/marine-habitats/algae-blooms.

Gympie Times


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