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Marine News from the Great Lakes

Blue-green algae bloom season is on the horizon

Published: Wednesday, June 14, 2017

MADISON -- Those heading out to lakes and rivers are reminded to be on the lookout this summer for blue-green algae blooms on water bodies across the state. Some blue-green algae are capable of making toxins that can cause illnesses for people and animals who accidentally ingest or inhale water containing algae, or have prolonged skin contact with the algae.

"Blue-green algae are in all lakes and rivers in Wisconsin, but they only become a problem when they form nuisance-level growths, called blooms, on some water bodies," said Gina LaLiberte, DNR's statewide blue-green algae coordinator. "Actively growing blooms are usually green and have a 'pea soup' appearance, but blooms may also appear as blue, white, red, or brown scums that may be foamy or in mats."

While not all cyanobacteria produce toxins, the presence of blue-green algae blooms in lakes, ponds or rivers may indicate a potential health hazard, LaLiberte said.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Division of Public Health, common symptoms of exposure to toxic blue-green algae blooms include rashes, gastrointestinal ailments and respiratory irritation. People experiencing symptoms that may be due to blue-green algal exposure should contact their health care provider or the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Public health officials encourage people to avoid swallowing any water and to always wash off after swimming in any lake, pond or river. Dogs should always be rinsed off with clean water to remove algae from their coat. If people have any doubts about the appearance of water, they should stay out. They should ensure that children and pets do not swim in or drink water with an algae bloom.

People are also encouraged to help out by reporting blue-green algae blooms and potential blue-green algae-related illnesses in both people and animals to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services by calling 608-266-1120 or filling out an online survey at www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/water/bg-algae/index.htm (exit DNR).

Animals have a higher risk of dying after exposure to blue-green algal toxins because they are smaller in size and may ingest large amounts of toxins from drinking lake, pond, or river water or licking algae from their coat. Symptoms in dogs can include lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea or even seizures. If your animal shows any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Blooms tend to grow when there is a lot of sunlight, water temperatures are high, and there is little wind. In Wisconsin blooms typically peak from July to September.

DNR will host an online blue-green algae chat June 14 at noon. Participants can log on and ask a panel of experts from DNR and the Wisconsin Division of Public Health questions about blue-green algae and ways to stay safe this summer when spending time on the water. To participate, visit the DNR home page, dnr.wi.gov, and click on the graphic or search the phrase "ask the experts." You can also join the conversation via our Facebook page at facebook.com/WIDNR and clicking the "Ask the Experts Chat" tab at the top of the page.

More information is available by searching the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for "blue-green algae."

Additional information about the health effects associated with blue-green algae can be found at www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/water/bg-algae/index.htm (exit DNR).


tags: Dept of Natural Resources, Environmental Impact, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior

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