UPDATE: Experts warn about toxic algae in local lakes

By: Max Hess - Email
By: Max Hess - Email

UPDATE: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 -- 10:00 p.m.

When sunshine hits, temperatures rise and the summer is in full bloom, people tend to spend more time at the lake.

There's something else that blooms too.

"The lake actually has a good green tinge on it," said Richard Lathrop, who is a DNR lake expert.

It's caused by "blue-green algae", which releases toxins that can be dangerous for humans and animals.

"Some can cause lesions in the kidney or liver, and then there's the other kind which contains neurotoxins which can cause seizures, respiratory arrest and things like that," Lathrop said.

Back in 2002, 17-year-old Dane Rodgers learned that lesson all too well.

After swallowing pond water at a golf course, he went in to shock and died.

The cause was blue-green algae.

"You gotta have some common sense, because public health people can't be going out there and be monitoring it every three hours," Lathrop said.

They do, however, keep a close eye on it.

One of the people who looks at lake samples is Kirsti Sorsa, who works for Madison & Dane County Public Health.

"We have to watch out, and this time of the year we have frequently these heavy blooms of blue green algae," she said.

Today's sample was collected at Marshall Park off of Allen Boulevard.

Sorsa says the algae is usually easy to spot.

"You can see sort of gummy surface, pea soup type of conditions; some streaks, blue, green, sometimes even brown."

If the samples test to be dangerous, public health closes the beaches in the area.

You can check their website for beach closures.

"We want to prevent any illnesses there are," Sorsa said.

That way we can all enjoy those few months of Wisconsin summer -- safely, on the lakes -- and without any risk of getting sick.

Posted Tuesday, June 10, 2014 --- 10:21 a.m.

According to a release from the UW-Madison, Cyanobacteria, or toxic blue-green algae blooms, were spotted Tuesday on Lake Mendota.

The blooms were seen in the area of the Memorial Union and Hoofers.

The school urges the campus community and the public to use caution along the shore and not swim at night when the blooms can't be seen.

Toxins released by blue-green algae can cause significant health risks, according to Public Health-Madison & Dane County. The algae blooms when there is little wind and hot temperatures combined with lake nutrients.

If you believe you have been exposed, contact your health care provider right away.  You should also call Public Health at (608) 266-4821.

Symptoms of a reaction to algae blooms include eye, throat, nose or skin irritation, and problems such as vomiting or diarrhea. These symptoms can happen between several hours and a few days after being exposed.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services advises the following:
--Avoid areas of water that look like paint or pea soup
--Don’t swim or wade through algae.
--Don’t fish in algae-laden waters.
--Always shower with soap after swimming in a lake, or wash your hands after coming in contact with lake water.
--Don’t let pets drink water, eat algae or lick it off their fur.
--Wash your pet with clean water if it has been exposed.

For more on beach conditions, click HERE.

For more information on blue-green algae from the DNR, click HERE.

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