Northern Health shares blue-green algae information

As the weather continues to warm in northern B.C., Northern Health shares some information on blue-green algae. (Canva)

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Northern Health has shared some information on blue-green algae as B.C. residents look to make use of lakes this summer.

According to the health authority, the warm weather across the north could cause blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, to appear in lakes.

Blue-green algae are naturally occurring and can look like scum, grass clippings, fuzz or globs on the water.

Despite the name, blue-green algae can be blue-green, green-brown, brown or pink-red and often smells like must or grass.

Contact with visible blue-green algae or ingestion of water with the toxins may result in skin irritation, rash, sore throat, sore red eyes, swollen lips, fever, nausea and vomiting or diarrhea.

Northern Health says symptoms usually appear in a couple of hours and resolve within two days.

Children who come into contact with blue-green algae will experience more pronounced symptoms.

Lake users are advised by the health authority to take the following precautions:

  • Avoid all contact with blue-green algae blooms. If contact occurs, wash with tap water as soon as possible.
  • Do not swim or wade (or allow your pets to swim or wade) in any areas where blue-green algae are visible.
  • As a reminder, Northern Health recommends that visitors and residents not drink or cook with untreated water directly from any lake. Boiling lake water will not remove the toxins produced by blue-green algae.
  •  An alternate source of drinking water should also be provided for pets and livestock.  Pet owners should be wary of allowing pets to walk off-leash where they may be able to drink lake water – illnesses are a common outcome.

Due to weather and wind conditions, blue-green algae blooms can move across lakes, and Northern Health recommends being highly cautious around blooms or areas of water historically affected.

Observations and photos of the algae can be submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy online.

Residents concerned about blue-green algae in a body of water used for drinking or for recreation can call Environmental Health at 250-565-7322.

More information on blue-green algae can be found on HealthLink BC’s website.


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