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Red tide may cause respiratory issues on Florida Gulf Coast

July 11, 2021 GMT

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Red tide could cause people along certain parts of Florida’s Gulf Coast to to experience respiratory irritation, health officials said.

The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County on Sunday recommended that anyone with chronic respiratory problems consider staying away from areas experiencing red tide, the Tampa Bay Times reported. They also advise people not to swim around dead fish, and to keep pets away from water, sea foam and dead marine life.

The National Weather Service in Tampa issued a beach hazards statement on Saturday evening that cautioned red tide can cause coughing, sneezing and tears in the eyes, and that symptoms can be worse for people with asthma, emphysema or other chronic lung diseases. The warning extended through Monday night.

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Red tide is an algae bloom producing toxins that kill fish. The toxins may also make the surrounding air difficult to breathe, and often turn the water red.

Those with allergies also can be affected, National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Close told the newspaper. “And just the smell, dead fish smell,” he added.

St. Petersburg crews cleaned up nine tons of dead fish in 24 hours last week, the newspaper reported. During a news conference on Friday, St. Petersburg Emergency Manager Amber Boulding said red tide blooms killed the fish, and Tropical Storm Elsa pushed them ashore.