Interior Health (IH) is reminding the public to report excessive large algae blooms this summer while recreating on local lakes.
While no large-scale algae blooms have been reported in Interior Health so far this year, that can easily change. In the South Cariboo, some residents have already seen patches of algae in some lakes, including Canim Lake. Due to the heat, the potential for large blooms of blue-green algae known as cyanobacteria is far more likely, IH medical officer Dr. Silvina Mema observed.
“It’s that time of year when we can see increased cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, blooms on lakes. These blooms tend to stay on the water surface and may have a leafy scent,” Mema said. “Sometimes blooms can be toxic for those who come in contact with the water. My advice is for users to use common sense, and avoid contact or consuming water if you suspect there is a cyanobacteria bloom.”
In large quantities, cyanobacteria negatively impact the health of lakes and their wildlife. Their rapid growth starves the water of oxygen, leading to the death of other plants and fish, further accelerating its growth.
When it comes into contact with humans this algae can be toxic. Symptoms of exposure include headaches, nausea, fever, sore throat, dizziness, stomach cramps, diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, muscle aches, mouth ulcers, rashes and irritation of the eyes and ears.
Interior Health recommends avoiding contact with water you believe to have a large quantity of cyanobacteria. If contact is made be sure to wash your body with clean water and report any health symptoms to your doctor.
As IH cannot go out and sample every lake, Environmental Public Health team leader Jen Jacobsen said they rely on the public to inform them of potential blooms. She encourages beachgoers to take pictures with their phones and submit them to Algae Watch on the gov.bc.ca website.
“The Ministry of Environment operates this page and can help determine if a bloom is cyanobacteria, which may produce toxins. We also encourage beach owners to have a Beach Safety Plan which directs them to monitor their beach for hazards, including algae blooms, and respond accordingly,” Jacobsen said. “Reporting blooms lets the appropriate agencies know that they are present and can trigger any follow-up that may be necessary.”