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Red tide causing respiratory irritation, fish kills in southwest Florida

High concentrations of Karenia brevis -- the organism that produces red tide -- have been reported.
Credit: AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File
In this Aug. 6, 2018, file photo, a dead Snook lies along the water's edge in Bradenton Beach, Fla. Red tide affected beaches on Florida's east, west coasts and the Panhandle.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Elevated concentrations of red tide continue to persist off Florida's southwest coast, with dead fish and respiratory irritation reported. 

NOAA's National Ocean Service latest report shows a "moderate" respiratory irritation level along the Collier and Lee County shorelines. This means people in the area could experience mild symptoms related to red tide.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which also publishes frequent red tide reports, last week said the area is experiencing a "high" concentration of the red tide.

Karenia brevis -- the organism that produces red tide -- is a type of algae that produces neurotoxins that become suspended in the air and cause respiratory illness, NOAA says. Symptoms can range from asthma, eye irritation and other respiratory issues.

The harmful algal blooms also contribute to fish kills. Much of southwest Florida and the Tampa Bay area were plagued with high concentrations of red tide in 2018, leading to a massive die-off of marine life. Beachgoers were annoyed and businesses suffered, too.

NOAA says bouts of red tide can last as little as a few years or longer than a year.    

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