WISCONSIN —The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says toxic blue-green algae has been reported blooming in a number of Wisconsin lakes, prompting shutdowns at some beaches and recreation areas.
State officials say there is no method to control or mitigate a bloom once it has started. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says that the best way to protect human health is to prevent these blooms from occurring in the first place.
“Algae, like all plants, require nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen to grow. If too much phosphorus and/or nitrogen is added to our lakes and rivers, it can spur more algae to bloom and can increase the frequency of harmful algal bloom occurrences,” officials said in a statement.
You can report a case with potential health effects caused by blue-green algae, by visiting the Department of Health Services [exit DNR]. or contact the Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health at 608-266-1120.
The algae reports come amid multiple reports nationwide of dogs dying after swimming in ponds containing blue-green algae.
IDPH said the agencies were conducting surveillance on Illinois lakes, rivers and ponds after news of harmful algae blooms (HABs) around the nation this summer. Residents are also asked to report any possible sightings of harmful algae, as well as any illness in humans or animals.
Earlier this summer, Woods Creek Lake in Lake In The Hills was closed for nearly a week after toxic algae was discovered. Two years ago, the St. Charles Park District warned dog owners to keep their pets out of the water after the toxic algae was found in a pond at a dog park.
Toxic Algae Reports Surface In U.S.
Devastating reports of dogs dying just hours after swimming in water containing the toxic algae have surfaced in several states. On Saturday, Georgia resident Morgan Fleming took to Facebook to warn other dog owners after she and her husband took their border collie, Arya, to swim in a nearby pond to beat the summer heat.
“About 30 minutes later on the drive home, we noticed her making weird noises and she threw up and pooped in the car,” Fleming wrote in a post that has since been shared thousands of times (Warning: post contains photos some may find disturbing). “We called our vet on the drive and they suggested we take her in. By this point our girl couldn’t even stand… They told us she was in critical condition so we took her to the ER. By the time we got there, she was brain dead.”
In North Carolina, two women took their three dogs — two West Highland terriers and a goldendoodle mix — on a doggie playdate to . Within minutes of leaving the pond, one of the dogs began having a seizure, owner Melissa Martin said on Facebook. By the end of the night, all three dogs were dead, the victims of blue-green algae poisoning, according to the dog owners.
“At 12:08 AM, our dogs crossed the rainbow bridge together,” Martin wrote. “They contracted blue green algae poisoning and there was nothing they could do. We are gutted. I wish I could do today over. ”
Several dogs have also reportedly died after swimming in an Austin, Texas lake believed to have been contaminated with toxic blue-green algae.
What is toxic blue-green algae, and why is it bad?
According to IDPH, “Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, are photosynthetic bacteria that are a natural part of the aquatic environment. Blue-green algae are often present in Illinois lakes in small or moderate amounts, but can grow and proliferate quickly in warm, fresh water that is rich with nutrients.”
Harmful algae blooms may appear as a thick scum layer or green paint on the surface of the water, and can be a variety of colors such as blue, green or brown and may have a foul odor, IDPH said.
Most blue-green algae is harmless, but “the production of toxins is what makes an algal bloom harmful,” according to IDPH. “Microcystin is the most well-known toxin produced during a harmful algal bloom, and it can cause a variety of symptoms by affecting the skin, liver, GI tract and nervous system. Ingestion, inhalation, or direct contact with contaminated water may cause illness.”
Harmful algae can cause illness in young children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems, as well as animals. Symptoms of exposure to algal toxins include rashes, hives, diarrhea, vomiting, coughing or wheezing.
If you spot a blue-green algae bloom
If you see a potential harmful algae bloom, avoid the water and notify the Illinois EPA of a possible HAB event via the HAB report form.
- Do not swim or wade through algal scums
- Do not boat, water ski, jet ski, or fish where algal scum is present
- Always shower off with soap and water after swimming in a lake, river, or pond
- Do not let dogs drink, eat, or lick algal scum off their fur
- Wash your dog off with clean water immediately if your dog swims or wades in water during an algal bloom.
If you think you or anyone else has symptoms that are a result of exposure to toxic algae, contact your health care provider or call the Illinois Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. If your pet experiences symptoms that may be a result of exposure, contact your veterinarian immediately.
How to spot toxic blue-green algae
The Illinois EPA said telltale signs of a harmful algae blooms include water that:
- looks like spilled, green or blue-green paint
- has surface scums, mats or films
- is discolored or has green-colored streaks; or
- has greenish globs suspended in the water below the surface.
Activities near, but not in or on a lake or river, such as camping, picnicking, biking and hiking are not affected, according to the Illinois EPA. With all activities, wash your hands before eating if you have had contact with lake water or shore debris.
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