MADISON, Wis. — Those heading out to lakes are reminded to be on the lookout for blue-green algae blooms beginning to form on lakes and ponds across the state.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has received reports of blooms on some southern lakes and blooms will continue to appear throughout the state as the summer months continue.
“Blue-green algae are in all lakes in Wisconsin, but they only become a problem when they form nuisance-level growth, called blooms, on some lakes,” said Gina LaLiberte, DNR’s statewide blue-green algae coordinator. “Actively growing blooms are usually green and have a ‘pea soup’ appearance, but they may contain blue, white, red, or brown scums that may be foamy or in mats. These blooms may cause illnesses for those who accidentally ingest or inhale water containing algae, or have prolonged skin contact with the algae.”
Jordan Dieckman, a waterborne disease fellow with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, said common symptoms of exposure to blue-green algae blooms include rashes, gastrointestinal ailments and respiratory irritation. People experiencing symptoms that may be due to blue-green algal exposure should contact their health care provider or the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
Public health officials encourage people to avoid swallowing any water and to always wash off after swimming in any lake, pond or river. Dogs should always be rinsed off with clean water to remove algae from their coat. If people have any doubts about the appearance of water, they should stay out. They should ensure that children and pets do not swim in or drink water with an algae bloom.
“A good rule for identifying risk from blue-green algae is that if adults are in knee-deep water and can see their feet clearly, the risk of illness is low to moderate, but it’s still a good idea to avoid swallowing water that could contain other bacteria and pathogens,” LaLiberte said. “When you can’t see your feet, keep children and dogs out of the water and consider having the whole family pursue another activity that day.”
People are also encouraged to help out by reporting potential algae-related illnesses in both people and animals to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services by filling out an online questionnaire (www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/water/bg-algae/index.htm) or calling 608-266-1120.
Animals have a higher risk of dying after exposure to blue-green algal toxins because they are smaller in size and may ingest large amounts of toxins from drinking lake, pond, or river water or licking algae from their coat. Symptoms in dogs can include lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea or even seizures. If your animal shows any of these symptoms contact your veterinarian immediately.
Blooms tend to grow when there is a lot of sunlight, water temperatures are high, and there is little wind. The blooms peak from July to September.
While not all cyanobacteria produce toxins, the presence of blue-green algae blooms in lakes, ponds or rivers may indicate a potential health hazard, LaLiberte said.
Blue green algae chat July 12
DNR will host an online blue-green algae chat July 12 at noon. Participants can log on and ask a panel of experts from DNR and the DHS questions about blue-green algae and ways to stay safe this summer when spending time on the water. To participate, visit the DNR home page, dnr.wi.gov, and click on the graphic or search the phrase “ask the experts.” You can also join the conversation via our Facebook page at facebook.com/WIDNR and clicking the “Ask the Experts Chat” tab at the top of the page.