Health Division Warns: Algal Blooms in Lakes Could Cause Rash, Other Reactions

Health Division Warns: Algal Blooms in Lakes Could Cause Rash, Other Reactions

(Oakland County Health Division, Aug. 16 2019)

Oakland County, MI -Oakland County Health Division reminds residents that algal blooms may be present in lakes. People should exercise caution and avoid direct contact with water that appears scummy, looks like spilled paint, or has a green sheen to it. The scum may contain flecks, foam, or clumps.

“If you see algae, avoid direct contact with it and keep pets away as well,” said Leigh-Anne Stafford, health officer for Oakland County. “Although algae are a natural presence in waterways, special precautions need to be followed to prevent illness.”

If the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE) notifies the Health Division that an algal bloom is identified in Oakland County and may be harmful, the Health Division posts caution signs at the lake. Individuals should exercise caution even at lakes that do not have a posted advisory. For questions or to report algal blooms, contact EGLE at AlgaeBloom@michigan.gov (Pictures are encouraged) or 800-662-9278.

Dense populations of algae are called a bloom. Some blooms are harmless, but some contain blooming toxic organisms. These toxins can produce conditions harmful to humans, pets, and aquatic life.

Take the following actions if an algal bloom is present:

Do not drink untreated surface water, whether or not blooms are present. Remember, boiling the water will not remove the toxins.

Obey posted signs for public health advisories and/or beach closings.

Do not allow children or pets to play in or drink water where algae or scum is present.

Do not boat at high speeds, water-ski, or swim in areas of the lake where algal blooms are present. Avoid direct contact with the lake water or sprinklers.

Do not water lawns, gardens, or golf courses with water from impacted lakes or ponds because it aerosolizes the water.

Report unpleasant tastes or smells in your drinking water to the local water utility.

Individual property owners should not use algaecides because of the risk of releasing toxins directly into the water. Treatment requires a permit from the EGLE.

Do not have direct contact with mussels or other bivalves (i.e., zebra mussels) from impacted areas.

Limit or avoid eating fish from impacted areas. If fish are consumed, eat only the filets – remove guts and liver and rinse filets in clean drinking water. Always follow the Eat Safe Fish waterbody-specific guidelines or Statewide Safe Fish Guidelines, even if a waterbody does not look impacted, available at www.michigan.gov/eatsafefish.

People and pets can experience the following symptoms after contact with an algal bloom:

Skin contact may cause:

Rashes, hives, or skin blisters (especially on the lips and under swimsuits).

Breathing aerosolized (suspended water droplets) lake water mist from recreational activities and/or lawn watering can cause:

Runny eyes and noses

Sore throat

Asthma-like symptoms

Allergic reactions

Swallowing contaminated water can cause:

Severe diarrhea/vomiting and abdominal pain

Abnormal liver function

Kidney toxicity

Weakness, salivation, tingly fingers, numbness, dizziness, difficulties breathing, or death

If you think you have been exposed to an algal bloom, take the following precautions:

Remove people from the exposure and seek medical treatment if symptoms occur.

Thoroughly rinse off pets with clean, fresh water if they swam in an area with an algal bloom. If they lick their fur after leaving the water, they may ingest large amounts of the toxin.

Seek veterinary treatment as soon as possible if you think your pet might have been poisoned by toxic algae.

For more information, visit www.oakgov.com/health or call Nurse on Call at 800-848- 5533, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. For up-to-date public health information, follow @publichealthOC on Facebook and Twitter.

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