Blue-green algae can be a health hazard
Health officials are reminding people to watch out for blue-green algae blooms in Lincoln County waterways this summer, and to avoid swimming in water where a visible scum or mat of blue-green algae is present.
Blue-green algae, technically known as cyanobacteria, are found naturally in Wisconsin lakes and ponds at low levels. Blue-green algae can cause illness or even death in humans and animals. As the weather gets warmer, conditions become more favorable for the cyanobacteria to bloom, or increase greatly in number. Blooms typically occur during the warm weather months between mid-June and mid-September. Blooms may be visible as thick mats on the surface of the water, can be bluish green to red in color or can have more than one color present, and often have a foul odor.
Each algal toxin can affect your health differently. Symptoms depend on which toxin, how much of it you are exposed to and how you were exposed (drinking, swimming, etc.). Exposure to algal blooms may cause sore throat, cough, difficulty breathing, earache, head ache, diarrhea, vomiting, eye irritation, itchy or red skin, and blisters or hives.
It is impossible to tell whether an algal bloom is toxic. The safest thing to do is to treat every algal bloom as if it could be dangerous. Do not swim or wade through algal scums. Do not boat, water ski or Jet Ski through algal blooms. Shower and wash hands after swimming in lakes, rivers, and ponds. Do not fish from lakes where algal scum is present. Do get medical treatment right away if you think you, your pet or livestock might have been poisoned from algal toxins. Do pay attention and respect water body closures and health advisories.
Animals can also become ill from blue-green algal blooms. Do not let animals drink lake water during algal blooms. Keep animals out of green water or water where you see foam, scum or mats of algae, and rinse animals off immediately-do not let them lick algae off their fur.
For more information, and some basic guidelines to help you avoid exposure to blue-green algal blooms, call Ed Newburry at 715-536-0307 or visit the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website at: http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/eh/bluegreenalgae/resourceslinks.htm.