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Beware of Toxic Algae, It Killed Dogs Across the Country

Report by Paula Antolini, August 17, 2019, 9:56AM EDT

According to pets.webmd.com: (Aug. 14, 2019):

“A deadly variety of algae has caused a recent spate of dog deaths in the Southern United States, causing concern among canine owners nationwide.

“A dog died last Wednesday in Texas after wading in a shallow pool near a river; three dogs died in Wilmington, NC, after a trip to a pond last Thursday; and another died after swimming in Lake Allatoona in Georgia on Saturday.

“The killer is blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, that can be found in fresh or salt water and contain toxins that can be fatal to dogs within minutes, hours, or days of exposure.

“These primitive algae are considered harmful algal blooms (HABs) and evolved roughly 3.5 billion years ago, says Larry Brand, a University of Miami marine biology and ecology professor. Although they can also be deadly for humans, dogs are far more likely to ingest them.”

Read more here.

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The Connecticut State Department of Health states:

“Blue-green algae blooms have raised concerns in Connecticut and across the nation because these organisms can produce a wide array of neurotoxins, liver toxins, cell toxins and skin irritants.  In still and  warm summer waters, populations of blue green algae may increase to the extent that a normally clear surface can become thick and murky.  This overgrowth is called a ‘bloom’.  Blooms are considered harmful due to the potential to cause health effects in people and pets over-exposed to these organisms.”

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Blue-green algae are naturally present in all lakes and ponds. However, a combination of conditions (warm water, high nutrients, calm, sunny days) is typically necessary in order for the algae to multiply rapidly, creating a visible, green color (blooms). Blooms most often occur in the late summer or early fall. Blue-green algae blooms can make the water appear cloudy, look like thick pea soup, or create a surface film similar to spilled paint. There may also be a thick mat or foam when a bloom washes onto the shore.

Some types of blue-green algae produce toxins. Common species that produce toxins in Connecticut are Mycrocystis and Anabaena. However, even the types of blue-green algae that are known to produce toxins may not produce them under all conditions. When toxin-producing algae die and break down, toxins can be released into the water. The highest concentrations of toxins may be found in dense blooms and shoreline scums. Toxins can remain in the water for a period of time after the algae have broken down and are no longer visible.

There are a variety of health effects that can be caused by coming into contact with water containing bluegreen algae toxins. Human exposure most commonly occurs from recreation activities (swimming, wading, jet/water skiing) in lakes that are impacted by blue-green algae toxins. Exposure can also occur if lake water is used for drinking, showering or lawn watering. Possible health symptoms from exposure to water containing blue-green toxins are summarized below:
–Contact with water can cause skin and eye irritation.
–Ingesting small amounts of toxins can cause gastrointestinal symptoms.
–Ingesting large amounts of toxins may cause liver or neurological damage.
–Inhaling water spray containing toxins can cause asthma-like symptoms.

Exposure to pets and livestock is also a potential concern. Livestock and pet deaths from ingesting algal toxins have been documented in New England and elsewhere in the US. Blue-green algae toxins do not readily bioaccumulate in fish tissue. However, fishing in lakes heavily impacted by a blue-green algae bloom is usually discouraged by health officials because of the possibility of incidental water contact during fishing. There is also evidence that blue-green algae does not readily migrate in groundwater.
This means that it is generally not necessary to advise residents with private wells near an impacted lake to test their well water for toxins. It should also be noted that boiling the water will not render the toxin harmless.

Connecticut currently has no state-wide monitoring program for blue-green algae or blue-green algae toxins in CT’s lakes and ponds. There is also no state-wide protocol for evaluating potential public health impacts from the presence of blue-green algae or toxins. As stated previously, CT DPH is currently evaluating the need for statewide guidance for CT.

State of Connecticut Department of Public Health.

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