Be On the Lookout for Blue-Green Algae

Around this time of year, we will often see some of our lakes and ponds turning into what looks like pea soup. This is from blue-green algae.  Lincoln County Health Department wants to remind everyone to watch for blue-green algal blooms. When in doubt, best keep out! “We have had reports of algal blooms in Lincoln County this year,” says Meghan Williams, Environmental Health Specialist, Lincoln County Health Department. “We want to make sure everyone is aware and taking precautions to protect themselves.”

One cause of blue-green algal blooms in our lakes is from excess phosphorus. Phosphorus can come from sources like wastewater treatment plants, and vegetable processing plants, but also from other sources such as leaves, grass, soil, manure and fertilizer. When conditions are right blue-green algae can grow very quickly in number, producing a scum layer or mat on the top of the water.

People may be exposed to blue-green algae through contact with the skin, breathing or by swallowing tainted water. Contact with algae blooms may cause the following signs: sore throat, runny nose, cough, difficulty breathing, itchy eyes, itchy skin, red skin, hives, earache, headache, stomach pain, and vomiting. Since it is very difficult to tell whether algae blooms are poisonous without lab investigation, the safest thing to do is to treat every algae bloom as if it could be dangerous.

Animals can also become sick from blue-green algae blooms. To protect your animals keep them out of green water or where you see foam or mats of algae. If your animal has been exposed, rinse them immediately.

If your pet displays symptoms such as seizures, vomiting, or diarrhea after contact with water, contact your veterinarian right away.

If you think you are experiencing symptoms related to exposure to blue-green algae, contact your doctor or the Poison Information Hotline (800-222-1222) right away.

For more information, regarding blue-green algae contact Meghan Williams, Lincoln County Health Department, at 715-536-0307 or visit the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website: http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/eh/bluegreenalgae/resourceslinks.htm.

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