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FDOH issues harmful blue-green algae alert for Hillsborough River

Health officials advise people to not swim in the water where bloom is visible.

TAMPA, Fla. — The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County is cautioning people to not drink, swim or boat in the Hillsborough River after a blue-green algae bloom alert was issued for the river on Tuesday. 

Anyone who has come in contact with the bloom at the river, located north of Morris Bridge Road and west of I-75, is encouraged to wash their skin and clothing with soap and water, FDOH said in a news release. Also, people are asked to keep pets away from the river as the algae blooms are not safe for animals, health officials say. 

Blue-green algae is a common type of bacteria found in Florida's freshwater environments and the bloom happens when the 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, the 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 and 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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