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FDOH issues alert for harmful blue-green algae in Lake Henry

Authorities advise residents and visitors not to drink, swim or wade in the waters when there is a bloom.

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — The Florida Department of Health in Polk County is cautioning people to not drink, swim or boat in Lake Henry after a blue-green algae bloom alert was issued for the river on Wednesday. 

The alert comes after toxins were detected in a water sample taken on Sept. 15, the agency says. 

Blue-green algae is a common type of bacteria found in Florida's freshwater environments. Blooms happen when a rapid growth of algae transitions to a collection of cells that change the color of the water and often produce floating mats that create unpleasant odors, FDOH said in a news release.

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

Blue-green algae blooms can be harmful to ecosystems and people, including fish and other aquatic animals, FDOH says. 

Other cautions provided by FDOH are to not cook or clean dishes that are contaminated by the water from algae blooms and boiling water will not get rid of the toxins. Also, eating healthy fish that are caught in the Hillsborough River is safe as long as people rinse fish fillets with bottled or tap water, throw out the guts and cook the fish well. However, shellfish from the river should not be eaten. 

Below are agencies to contact if you or someone else comes across blue-green algae or if an animal gets contaminated. 

  • To report a bloom to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, call 855-305-3903
  • To report fish kills, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute at 1-800-636-0511
  • If you are experiencing symptoms from exposure to a harmful algal bloom or any aquatic toxin, contact the Florida Poison Information Center at 1-800-222-1222 and speak with a poison specialist immediately
  • If your pet has become ill after being contaminated or has consumed blue-green algae water, contact your veterinarian immediately.
  • For any health questions or concerns about blue-green algae blooms, call the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County at 813-307-8000

To learn more about the potential health effects of algal blooms, click here.


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