PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – Northern Health has issued a bulletin to remind residents about precautions they need to take if they encounter blue-green algae when they head out for a swim in their favourite lake.
The health authority said that with temperatures getting warmer during the summer months blooms of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, may appear in lakes across Northern B.C. Blue-green algae are naturally occurring and can look like scum, grass clippings, fuzz or globs on the surface of the water. The blooms can be blue-green, greenish-brown, brown, or pinkish-red, and often smell musty or grassy.
People who come in contact with visible blue-green algae, or who ingest water containing blue-green algae, may experience skin irritation, a rash, a sore throat, sore red eyes, swollen lips, and potentially develop a fever, nausea and vomiting, or diarrhea. Symptoms usually appear within one to three hours and resolve in one to two days.
Residents living near the shores of lakes, as well as visitors and those making day-use of lakes, are advised to take the following precautions:
- Avoid all contact with blue-green algae blooms. If contact occurs, wash with tap water as soon as possible.
- Do not swim or wade (or allow your pets to swim or wade) in any areas where blue-green algae are visible.
- As a reminder, Northern Health recommends that visitors and residents do not drink or cook with untreated water directly from any lake at any time. Boiling lake water will not remove the toxins produced by blue-green algae.
- An alternate source of drinking water should also be provided for pets and livestock. Pet owners should be wary of allowing pets to walk off-leash where they may be able to drink lake water – illnesses are a common outcome.
Anyone who suspects a problem related to blue-green algae can connect with the Ministry of Environment at EnvironmentalComplaints@gov.bc.ca. If you require further information on health concerns, please call Environmental Health at 250-565-2150. Additional information is also available at http://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthfiles/hfile47.stm.