The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County issued an advisory this week after blue-green algae blooms were found in the Hillsborough River.
Local health officials say the public should be cautious in parts of the river north of Morris Bridge Road and west of Interstate 75. The bloom could contain toxins. People should not swim, boat or ski in areas with algae blooms; they should also keep pets away from the area and refrain from drinking the water or cleaning with it. Shellfish from waters with blooms is unsafe to eat.
The county health department tested a sample three days later. The results contained “low levels” of blue-green algae, a bacteria common in Florida’s freshwater environments, county health department spokesperson Ryan Terry told the Tampa Bay Times Wednesday.
“Because it was a very low level and we’ve had lots of rain, it is entirely possible that it has disappeared,” Terry said. “We won’t know that for sure until the water is resampled.”
Blue-green algae can develop because of a number of factors, including sunny days, warm water temperatures, stagnant water conditions and excess nutrients. It can be blue, green, brown or red in color and has an unpleasant smell like rotting plants. The toxins can cause rashes, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and respiratory infection; high exposure can affect a person’s liver and nervous system.
Not all algae is toxic, Terry said, and one cannot determine the presence of toxins without testing. The Florida Health Department advises people who come into contact with blue-green algae to leave the area, wash off with soap and water and see a doctor if they have any symptoms.