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Vermont Health Department warns about toxic algae blooms

July 20, 2021 GMT

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The Vermont Health Department warned Tuesday that algae blooms are turning up in Vermont waters that can produce toxins harmful to humans and animals.

The department is encouraging people to go to its website to view a video and photos of what cyanobacteria and blooms look like.

“By knowing what a bloom looks like, and scanning the water before you go in, you’ll know if you should stay out of the water,” Bridget O’Brien, an environmental health scientist with the Vermont Department of Health, said in a statement.

Cyanobacteria are microorganisms that are a natural part of fresh water ecosystems but under certain conditions they can multiple rapidly, creating scums and blooms on the water’s surface and along shorelines, the department said. Blooms have shown up most often in northern parts of Lake Champlain, causing some Burlington beaches to recently be closed, and in other regions of the lake as well as other Vermont lakes in recent years.

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The blooms may cause skin rashes, diarrhea, a sore throat, stomach problems and more serious health concerns for swimmers and waders, the Health Department said, noting that exposure is a particular concern for small children who may ingest the water. Cyanobacteria is potentially fatal to dogs who may drink the water or lick the residue off their fur, officials warn.

The Health Department’s Cyanobacteria Tracker posts information and photos of lake conditions from community volunteers who monitor for cyanobacteria but conditions can change quickly so it’s important for people to check the water when they arrive, officials said. People are urged to avoid contact with the water and keep small children away if they think they see a bloom and to not allow pets or livestock to swim in or drink the water.

They also are urged to rinse off thoroughly as soon as possible if they came into contact cyanobacteria; talk with their health care provider if they have concerns about possible exposure; and report the bloom at healthvermont.gov/cyanobacteria.