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Health officials issue blue-green algae bloom alert for Clay County

FLEMING ISLAND, Fla. — The weather is warming, and water temperatures are rising, meaning more people are enjoying the water surrounding us here in Northeast Florida. But with the change in weather also comes increased blue-green algae blooms and the health risks that come with it.

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On Thursday, Jun. 1, the Florida Department of Health in Clay County issued a health alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in Doctors Lake. This is in response to a water sample taken on May. 24. The public exercise caution in and around the lake.

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Residents and those visiting the area should take the following precautions:

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have contact with algae or discolored or smelly water.
  • Keep pets away from the area. Waters where there are algae blooms are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should have a different source of water when algae blooms are present.
  • Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins.
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts and cook fish well.
  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.

What is blue-green algae?

As defined by the Florida Department of Health, blue-green algae are a type of bacteria that is common in Florida’s freshwater environments. A bloom occurs when rapid growth of algae leads to an accumulation of individual cells that discolor water and often produce floating mats that emit unpleasant odors.

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Some environmental factors that contribute to blue-green algae blooms are sunny days, warm water temperatures, still water conditions and excess nutrients. Blooms can appear year-round but are more frequent in summer and fall. Many types of blue-green algae can produce toxins.

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Is it harmful?

Blue-green algae blooms can impact human health and ecosystems, including fish and other aquatic animals.

For additional information on the potential health effects of algal blooms, visit the Florida Health website by clicking here.

What do I do if I see an algal bloom?

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection collects and analyzes algal bloom samples. To report a bloom to DEP, call the toll-free hotline at 855-305-3903 or report online.

To report fish kills, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute at 1-800-636-0511.

Report symptoms from exposure to a harmful algal bloom or any aquatic toxin to the Florida Poison Information Center, call 1-800-222-1222 to speak to a poison specialist immediately.

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Contact your veterinarian if you believe your pet has become ill after consuming or having contact with blue-green algae contaminated water.

If you have other health questions or concerns about blue-green algae blooms, please call the Florida Department of Health in Clay County at (904) 278-3784.

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