Public advised to avoid algal blooms in Pamlico River and nearby waterways

RALEIGH

State officials are urging people to avoid contact with potentially harmful algal blooms that extend from the Pamlico River to more than a dozen of its tributaries.

Earlier this month an algal bloom advisory was issued for Edenton Bay in Chowan County. New blooms have now been observed in Beaufort County, including the Pamlico River, Swan Point, Pantego Creek, Bath Creek, Back Creek, Goose Creek, Duck Creek, Yeats Creek, Runyon Creek, Chocowinity Bay, Broad Creek, Moores Beach and Washington Park. Algal blooms have also been observed at the headwaters of Bay River and Trent Creek in Pamlico County.

Over the past several days, state biologists have observed dense concentrations of three types of filamentous bluegreen algae in the Pamlico River area, including Pseudanabaena, Dolichospermum spiroides and Cylindrospermopsis. Filamentous algae are single algae cells that form long visible chains, threads, or filaments. These filaments intertwine forming a mat that resembles wet wool. Most filamentous bluegreens can grow quickly in summer when daylight is more intense and temperatures are higher. Bluegreens are known to form blooms that discolor water and may cause taste and odor problems. Some bluegreens, such as Dolichospermum, may produce cyanotoxins. These blooms are commonly referred to as potentially harmful algal blooms and may cause illness in humans or pets.

North Carolina has had no reports of adverse health effects in people associated with this algal bloom.

While it is safe to boat or fish in the affected areas, the N.C. Division of Public Health routinely encourages the public to avoid contact with large accumulations of the algae and prevent children and pets from swimming or ingesting water in an algal bloom.

State health and water quality officials reiterate the following steps to safeguard pets and children from any potentially harmful algal bloom:

  • Keep children and pets away from water that appears bright green, discolored or scummy. Do not handle or touch large mats of algae.
  • Avoid handling, cooking or eating dead fish that may be present.
  • If you come into contact with an algal bloom, wash thoroughly. Also, use clean water to rinse off pets that may have come into contact with an algal bloom.
  • If your child appears ill after being in waters containing an algal bloom, seek medical care immediately.
  • If your pet appears to stumble, stagger or collapse after being in a pond, lake or river, seek veterinary care immediately.

For more information on the potential health effects from algal blooms, visit the N.C. Division of Public Health’s website at http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/oee/algae/protect.html. To learn more about algae, visit the state environmental agency’s website at https://deq.nc.gov/about/divisions/water-resources/water-resources-data/water-sciences-home-page/ecosystems-branch/algal-blooms.

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