Springfield – Local health authorities from Minnesota and Illinois have warned the public to stay away from the blue-green algae present in the local lakes which can lead to serious repercussions in humans and pets. The unofficial start of the summer provides the conditions for the algae to thrill.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state Department of Health assured that the blue-green algae blooms, more specifically known as cyanobacteria, are starting to form on ponds and lakes statewide, as reported by the Associated Press.
Last summer, the presence of the algal blooms was reported in lakes across Minnesota, from near the Iowa border to the Canadian border. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) investigated two human illness and multiple dog deaths linked to the algae exposure, according to a statement from the MDH.
Commonly, the appearance of the blue-green algal bloom and the unpleasant smell that occasionally accompanies the plant keep most people out of its reach. However, people still become sick after they swim, boat, water ski or bathe in water infected with the algae. During this mentioned activities, people are exposed to the toxins by swallowing or having skin contact with the water, or by breathing in tiny droplets of water in the air, the MDH stated.
“In most people, symptoms are mild and may include vomiting, diarrhea, rash, eye irritation, cough, sore throat and headache,” said MDH Epidemiologist Stephanie Gretsch.
But although humans are exposed to the repercussions of being exposed to the algae, dogs are the ones more affected by it. The pets are more likely to wade in in the areas of a lake where algal scum accumulates and humans normally avoid. In addition, the dogs are usually more exposed to a large amount of toxins from the plant due to they tend to swallow more water than humans while swimming, especially when retrieving toys from the water.
The symptoms in the dogs are vomiting, diarrhea, rash, difficulty breathing, general weakness, liver failure and seizures. In the worst cases of exposure, it can cause the death of the animal. If the dog presents this symptom is recommended to visit a veterinary immediately, according to the MDH.
How to avoid the algae?
According to the MDH, not all the blue-green algae are toxic but there is no way to tell whether a bloom is indeed toxic by looking at it. The harmful blooms often tend to look like pea soup, green paint or floating mats of scams accompanied by a bad smell.
“If it looks and smells bad, don’t take a chance. We usually tell people: If in doubt, stay out,” said Pam Anderson, MPCA Water Quality Monitoring Supervisor. “If you are not sure, it is best for people and pets to stay out of the water,” she added.
If by any reason a person came in contact with the algae, Anderson recommended to wash it off with fresh water immediately, paying special attention to the areas where to swimsuit covered. As for the dogs, people should wash as well the pet with fresh water if there are any suspicions of contact with the blue-green algae.
Source: Minnesota Department of Health