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Friday, June 2, 2023

Health Alert: Harmful blue-green algae found in Orange Lake

The Florida Department of Health in Marion County has issued a health alert after dangerous blue-green algal toxins were found in Orange Lake, near McIntosh.

The public is being urged to use caution in and around Orange Lake. Marion County health officials recommend that residents and visitors take the following precautions:

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use a personal watercraft, water ski, or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom. Do not get water in your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have contact with algae or discolored or smelly water.
  • Keep pets away from the area. Waters where there are algae blooms are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should have a different source of water when algae blooms are present.
  • Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins.
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap water or bottled water, throw out the guts, and cook the fish well.
  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.

Blue-green algae are a type of bacteria that is common in Florida’s freshwater environments. A bloom occurs when a rapid growth of algae leads to an accumulation of individual cells that discolor the water. Floating mats are often produced that have unpleasant odors.

Environmental factors that contribute to blue-green algae blooms are sunny days, warm water temperatures, still water conditions, and excess nutrients. Blooms can appear year-round, but they are more common in the summer and fall seasons. Many types of blue-green algae are capable of producing toxins.

In order for the health alert for Orange Lake to be lifted, negative toxin analyses must be obtained from resampling of the bloom, or 30 days must elapse since the last sampling date.

Blue-green algae blooms can impact the health of individuals and ecosystems, including fish and other aquatic animals. To learn more about the potential health effects of algal blooms, visit the Florida Department of Health’s aquatic toxins webpage.

To report an algal bloom, contact the Florida Department of Environmental Protection at 1-855-305-3903 or click here to report it online. For more information about Florida’s water quality status and public health notifications for harmful algal blooms and beach conditions, visit FDEP’s Protecting Florida Together website.

Any residents who believe their pet has become ill after consuming or having contact with blue-green algae contaminated water should contact their veterinarian.

To report symptoms from exposure to a harmful algal bloom, or any aquatic toxin, call the Florida Poison Information Center at 1-800-222-1222 to speak with a poison specialist.

To report fish kills, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute at 1-800-636-0511.

If anyone has additional health questions or concerns about blue-green algae blooms, contact the Florida Department of Health in Marion County via phone (352-629-0137) or email (Info.Marion@FLHealth.gov).