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Florida Department of Health warns against swimming near algae blooms

June 27, 2018
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

In a press release today, the Florida Department of Health in Lee County advises residents and visitors to be aware of algae blooms.

According to the release, cyanobacteria, or blue green algae, lives in freshwater, saltwater or brackish water and accumulates with conditions like warm water and increased nutrients.

When the blooms near shorelines, people have a greater risk of coming in contact with them.

Cyanobacteria exposure can cause gastrointestinal issues if swallowed, and a rash if it's touched or breathed in. Swimming in the water where a cyanobacteria bloom is present can cause ear, eye and skin reactions, as well as hay fever and flu-like symptoms such as diarrhea, the release states.

The department suggests a "swim it, shore it, dodge it" message for visitors and residents to follow near the water. If beach flags warn against swimming, don't go in. If you have a cut or open wound, or have a weakened immune system, stay on the stand. Stay out of algal blooms.

In a department fact sheet about cyanobacteria, the department describes cyanobacteria blooms looking like "foam, scum or mats on the surface of freshwater lakes" and can be blue, bright green, brown or red, and may look like "paint floating on the water." Blooms can also cling to submerged vegetation. Dying algae can make the water smell bad.

The fact sheet states people and pets should avoid swimming in water with any of these indicators. Fish caught in areas near or in blooms should not be consumed, and water from bodies affected by a bloom should not be used for irrigation, either.

More information:

If you experience illness related to an algae bloom, please call the Florida Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

For health-related questions, contact the Florida Department of Health in Lee County at

To report fish kills, call Fish Kill Hotline (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) at 800-636-0511.

To report algae blooms, contact the Florida Department of Environmental Protection at 855-305-3903.

For more information about blue-green algae and enjoying Florida's water ways safely, visit



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