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DHS news release

Aug. 19, 2004

Contact: Bonnie Widerburg (503) 731-4180
Technical contacts: Ken Kauffman, DHS (503)-731-4012; Sylvia Mireles or Ray Campbell, Josephine County HD (541) 474-5353; Steve Schalk, Josephine County Parks Dept. (541) 474-5285

Public advisory: algae toxins at Lake Selmac, Josephine County

A public health advisory is issued today because of a severe blue-green algae bloom at Lake Selmac, 22 miles south of Grants Pass near the town of Selma in Josephine County. The advisory is being issued by the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS), Josephine County Health Department and Josephine County Parks Department.

Scientists have identified high concentrations of Anabaena flos aquae and Microcystis aeruginosa in the lake. These organisms may produce toxins that affect the liver and nervous systems of animals and human beings.

Ken Kauffman, environmental health specialist in DHS, advises that ingestion or skin contact with water from the lake is to be avoided until further notice from DHS. Swallowing or inhaling droplets of lake water is also to be avoided. Ingestion or inhalation of water from the piped water system at the park is also to be avoided. It is safe to use the water for flushing toilets. Children and pets should be carefully supervised to avoid water contact, he said.

Eating of fish caught from the lake during this advisory period is also to be avoided because of the extremely high concentrations of these two toxigenic bluegreen algae organisms, Kauffman said.

Symptoms of exposure to toxins may include numbness, tingling, dizziness or paralysis, leading to difficult breathing and cardiac disturbance. Other symptoms may include skin irritation, weakness, stomach or intestinal upset, cramps or fainting. All of these symptoms require immediate medical attention. Children and pets are especially at risk.

The bloom and the condition of the water will be monitored until the bloom subsides. The public will be advised when health concerns no longer exist.

Additional information about blue-green algae can be found at the DHS public health Web site, or by calling the contact persons indicated above. Local information may be obtained by calling the Josephine County Health Department or Josephine Parks Department.