Reminder of blue-green algae risks during walks

Published: Wednesday 10 Jun 2020

NHS Fife is issuing a reminder to people to be on the lookout for blooms of potentially hazardous blue-green algae (also known as Cyanobacteria) in the region’s waterways.

Blue-green algae are tiny organisms which develop naturally in lochs, ponds, reservoirs, rivers and in the sea. They are a common seasonal occurrence and waters which have been affected by agricultural, domestic or industrial discharges are most at risk of developing the algae.

In still waters, the algae can multiply during the summer to such an extent that they discolour the water making it appear green, blue-green or greenish brown.  Shoreline mats of blue-green algae may appear and are usually coloured brown to black. Sometimes a scum may form on the surface of the water.  This scum can appear in different places at different times, but is most commonly found near the shoreline

People and animals can be affected as a result of direct contact with water affected by blue-green algae and NHS Fife is advising the public, especially dog owners taking their animals for a walk to be alert to the blooms as temperatures rise.

Those who accidentally swallow affected water can suffer from complaints such as skin rashes, eye irritation, vomiting, diarrhoea, or pains in muscles and joints. These symptoms are usually mild, but in some cases, can be severe.

The risk posed by blue-green algae to small animals like dogs is significant over the summer months as they tend to drink more water in the heat and may eat shoreline algal crusts. Where applicable, dog owners should prevent their pets from coming into contact with water which could be affected.

Fish caught in waters affected by blue-green algae should not be eaten and should not be fed to pets.

There is a leaflet with further information available on line at:

https://online.fifedirect.org.uk/publications/index.cfm?fuseaction=publication.pop&pubid=86800438-B1C6-17C3-4B217F299ABEBA7C

You can also download the Bloomin’ Algae app and help monitor blooms across Scotland and the UK: http://www.brc.ac.uk/app/bloomin-algae-app

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