High blue-green algae and toxins found in Klamath County lake
The Oregon Health Authority issued a health advisory today for Howard Bay (also known locally as Howards Bay or Howard’s Bay), located in the southwest corner of Upper Klamath Lake, northwest of Klamath Falls in Klamath County.
Water monitoring has confirmed the presence of blue-green algae and the toxins they produce in Howard Bay. These toxin concentrations can be harmful to humans and animals.
People should always avoid areas with visible scum that looks foamy, scummy, thick like paint, pea-green, blue green or brownish red. Swimming and high-speed water activities such as water skiing or power boating where ingestion and inhalation exposure can occur is discouraged. Swallowing or inhaling water droplets as a result of these water activities in areas where a bloom has been identified, or an advisory issued, can expose people to the toxins being produced. Although toxins are not absorbed through the skin, people with skin sensitivities who come into contact with a bloom may experience a puffy, red rash at the affected area.
Drinking water directly from Howard Bay at this time is especially dangerous. OHA Public Health Division officials advise campers and other recreational visitors that toxins cannot be removed by boiling, filtering or treating water with camping-style filters.
People who draw in-home water directly from the affected area are advised to use an alternative water source because private treatment systems are not proven effective for removing algae toxins. However public drinking water systems can reduce algae toxins through proper filtration and disinfection. If people connected to public water systems have questions about treatment and testing, they should contact their water supplier. If community members have questions about water available at nearby campgrounds, they should contact campground management.
Oregon health officials recommend that those who choose to eat fish from waters where algae blooms are present remove all fat, skin and organs before cooking, as toxins are more likely to collect in these tissues. Fillets should also be rinsed with clean water. Public health officials also advise people to not eat freshwater clams or mussels from Howard Bay and that Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations do not allow the harvest of these shellfish from freshwater sources. Crayfish muscle can be eaten, but internal organs and liquid fat should be discarded.
Exposure to toxins can produce a variety of symptoms including numbness, tingling and dizziness that can lead to difficulty breathing or heart problems, and require immediate medical attention. Symptoms of skin irritation, weakness, diarrhea, nausea, cramps and fainting should also receive medical attention if they persist or worsen. Children and pets are at increased risk for exposure because of their size and level of activity. People who bring their pets to Coffenbury Lake for recreation activities should take special precautions to keep them from drinking from or swimming in the lake, and from licking their fur in the event they swim in affected water.
The advisory will be lifted when the concern no longer exists.
With proper precautions to avoid activities during which water can be ingested, people are encouraged to visit Howard Bay and enjoy activities such as canoeing, fishing, camping, hiking, biking, picnicking and bird watching. Boating is safe as long as speeds do not create excessive water spray. Although inhalation risk is much lower than ingestion, it can present a risk.
For health information or to report an illness, contact OHA at 971-673-0400. For campground or lake information, call the local management agency.
OHA maintains an updated list of all health advisories on its website. To learn if an advisory has been issued or lifted for a specific water body, visit the Harmful Algae Blooms website and select “algae bloom advisories,” or call the Oregon Public Health Division toll-free information line at 877-290-6767.
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