Be on the look out for waters that look suspicious — foamy, scummy, thick like paint, pea-green, blue-green or brownish red, or bright green cells suspended in the water column. When in doubt, stay out!
Health advisories for toxic algae levels have been issued for the following bodies of water in Oregon.
- South Umpqua River: Avoid water in pools of bedrock along the South Umpqua River and Lawson Bar. A permanent recreational use advisory for the South Umpqua River and mainstem Umpqua River from Lawson Bar down to Elkton has been in place since 2012. Starting in 2009 multiple dog deaths resulted from the animals drinking the water and licking toxins from potholes along the riverside.
Children and pets are particularly susceptible to this toxin
Exposure to toxins can produce symptoms of numbness, tingling and dizziness that can lead to difficulty breathing or heart problems and require immediate medical attention. Symptoms of skin irritation, weakness, diarrhea, nausea, cramps and fainting should also receive medical attention if they persist or worsen. Children and pets are particularly susceptible.
Swallowing or inhaling water droplets should be avoided, as well as skin contact with water by humans or animals. Drinking water from these bodies of water is especially dangerous. Oregon Public Health officials advise campers and other visitors that toxins cannot be removed by boiling, filtering or treating the water with camping-style filters.
Oregon Public Health recommends that people who choose to eat fish from waters where algae blooms are present should remove all fat, skin and organs before cooking since toxins are more likely to collect in these tissues. Additionally, public health officials advise that people should not eat crayfish or freshwater shellfish harvested from these bodies of water while this advisory is in effect.
A hazard for dogs
Dogs have become very sick and even died after swimming in and swallowing water affected by toxic algae. If you find thick, brightly colored foam or scum at a lake, pond or river, don’t let your pet drink or swim in the water. Avoid contact with the water, as toxins can be absorbed through the skin.
Symptoms in dogs
Exposure to toxic blue-green algae can result in:
- Weakness or collapse
- Nausea, vomiting
- Excessive drooling
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Shaking, trembling
- Tremors, rigidity, paralysis
If your dog goes into the water:
- Don’t let your pet lick its fur.
- Wash your pet with clean water as soon as possible.
- If your dog has symptoms such as drooling, weakness, vomiting, staggering and convulsions after being in water, seek immediate veterinary care. Acute, life-threatening symptoms from cyanobacterial toxins often develop rapidly. Death can occur within minutes to hours after exposure.
For more information, contact the Harmful Algae Bloom Surveillance program at (971) 673-0400.