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Blue-green algae poses a threat to people, pets

July 27, 2012
The Daily News

"Blue-green algae" is the common name for several types of algae. They are actually bacteria, which live in shallow, warm, slow-moving or still water.

It's great to have fun in the water, but water with high levels of blue-green algae can make you sick. People and pets should avoid swimming in a body of water with a lot of blue-green algae.

In 2011, two lakes in Florence County tested positive for the algae. The Florence County Health Department, in cooperation with the Florence County Land Conservation Department, is reminding families and pet owners to avoid contact with blue-green algae.

Blue-green algae may bloom in lakes, rivers and ponds. Not all are poisonous, however some can produce toxins. Exposure to these algae can cause illness in people and has caused death in both domestic animals and livestock. Individuals can protect themselves, their family, and their pets by avoiding contact with water containing visible amounts of blue-green algae.

Algal blooms can form a thick, foul-smelling scum on the waters' surface that can look like paint or pea soup. Algal blooms range in color from green and fluorescent blue to brown.

Most adults will avoid entering water with an algae bloom, but kids and pets can be hard to keep out of the water - no matter how it looks or smells.

Many water-loving dogs will swim and drink from water regardless of smell or appearance. It is important to remember that dogs exposed to algae should be rinsed off following contact with waters experiencing a bloom.

Dogs often lick their fur after swimming and rinsing pets helps decrease the chance of ingesting algal materials. Seek immediate veterinary care if your pet develops any signs of illness after swimming in a lake, river or pond

If you come in contact with a blue-green algae bloom, you may experience eye, throat, nose or skin irritation and gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting or diarrhea. Symptoms typically appear a few hours after exposure, but occasionally people feel ill several days after exposure.

Contact a physician if you experience muscle cramps, respiratory difficulties, nausea or vomiting following swimming in a lake or river.

It's a good idea to wash with clean water after playing or swimming in any lake or river, and, as always, to wash hands before eating.

To report an algae-related illness, or for additional information; call the Florence County Health Department at (715) 528-4837 or the Florence County Land Conservation Department at (715) 528-5940.

The Dickinson-Iron District Health Department can be contacted at (906) 774-1868 or (906) 265-9913.



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