Holidaymakers who have survived the scorching heatwave in Spain have a new health scare to worry about – poisonous algae that attacks swimmers’ lungs.
Soaring temperatures across Europe have led to a massive rise in the growth of a microalgae that can give off crippling fumes.
Experts say the algae can cause severe flu-like symptoms and affects victims’ respiratory systems.
Medics say the algae – known as Ostreopis – can now be found on almost all Spanish beaches both in the water and clinging to rocks and even sand.
Local media reported it has infected sea fauna leading to huge numbers of deaths.
French health officials raised the alarm on the creeping menace when they reported an outbreak of the algae in Biartitz, in the northern Spanish region of Basque Country.
The country’s National Health Security Agency (ANSES) said swimmers, surfers and other beach users had reported nausea, fatigue and infected eyes.
French experts report nearly 1,000 infections since 2021.
The microalgae produces toxins that are left in the air and – if breathed in – create health problems.
Algae expert Dr Magda Vila – from the Sea Science Institute in Spain (ICM-CSIC) – told local media they cause flu-like symptoms like sore throats, sneezing and fevers.
Colleague Dr Elisa Berdalet told Spanish media the spread of the algae had been caused by climate change causing warmer semi-tropical seas.
French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health And Safety (ANSES) say holidaymakers should be warned of outbreaks and local officials could ban beach use during peak infection times in the summer.
ANSES spokeswoman Carole Catastini, said: “People with breathing problems have more risks of having symptoms. They have to avoid the coast when there is a blooming of Ostreopsis.”