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As weather warms, beware of cyanobacteria blooms in water--some could be toxic

Quinn takes a swim.jpg
Tiffany Eckert
/
KLCC
Dogs are particularly at risk of illness or death after exposure to cyanotoxins. Here Quinn fetches a stick from the middle of the Deschutes River, free of the threat of toxic bacterial blooms.

If you plan to head out to the water as temperatures rise, health officials warn to be on the look-out for bacterial blooms that could sicken people and animals.

Cyanobacteria are beneficial and found in fresh water all over the world. Under the right conditions, they can multiply into blooms. Many blooms are harmless --but some can produce cyanotoxins that make people and pets sick.

cyanobacterial blooms.JPG
Environmental Protection Agency
Oregon Health Authority recommends staying clear of water that is foamy, scummy, pea green or brownish red.

Exposure happens when water is swallowed or droplets are inhaled during high-speed activities like skiing or wakeboarding. Symptoms include diarrhea, cramps, vomiting, and fainting. Kids and pets are most sensitive because of their size and activity levels. Dogs can die within minutes to hours of drinking the water.

cyanotoxins image.jpg
Environmental Protection Agency
Dangerous cyanotoxins can be produced in some cyanobacterial blooms which grown in many Oregon water bodies.

Only a fraction of freshwater bodies are monitored for cyanotoxins. Oregon Health Authority recommends staying clear of water that is foamy, scummy, pea-green or brownish-red. The guidance? “When in doubt, stay out.”

To learn if an advisory has been issued or lifted for a specific water body, visit the Harmful Algae Bloom website or call the Oregon Public Health Division toll-free information line at 877-290-6767.

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked in a variety of media including television and daily print news. For KLCC, Tiffany reports on health care, social justice and local/regional news. She has won awards from Oregon Associated Press, PRNDI, and Education Writers Association.