Chautauqua County health officials warn of harmful algae blooms

Chautauqua County

(A bloom on Chautauqua Lake in the early stages)

MAYVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) — As we get closer to August, the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) wants people to know about harmful algae blooms.

The blooms, which occur most frequently in mid to late summer, can pose a hazard to swimmers, boaters and people just generally spending time near the water.

Blue-green algae, also called cyanobacteria, is a natural part of lakes. Under certain conditions, this algae can form blooms that appear as floating “rafts,” the DHHS says. These blooms are more likely to appear in shoreline areas than open water.

“Be alert and watchful for blooms which may resemble ‘pea soup’ or have a paint-like appearance with strong colors including blue-green, green, yellow, white, brown, purple, or red,” the DHHS says.

The danger posed by these blooms comes from toxins they can release, which is harmful to both human and animal health. Exposure can occur through touching, swallowing or inhaling water droplets. The DHHS says contact can even occur during activities like watering a garden.

People also shouldn’t eat fish caught in areas where blooms, surface scums or discolored water are present.

Medical attention should be considered if exposure leads to diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, skin irritation, allergic reactions or breathing difficulties.

Evan Anstey is an Associated Press Award and Emmy-nominated digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.

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