People and pets can be exposed to toxins from harmful algal blooms by skin contacting water
containing toxins while swimming or doing other activities in the water, drinking water containing toxins,
breathing in tiny droplets in the air that contain toxins, and eating fish or shellfish that contain toxins (CDC 2021). Knowing the signs of harmful algal blooms and symptoms that may appear after exposure can help keep you and your family safe. Visit the What page to learn what harmful algal blooms can look like.
People, pets and livestock should avoid contact with any floating mats, scums, or discolored water. Colors can include shades of green, blue-green, yellow, brown or red. Never drink, prepare food, cook, or make ice with untreated surface water, whether or not algae blooms are present. In addition to toxins, untreated surface water may contain bacteria, parasites, or viruses that could cause illness if consumed. People not on public water supplies should not drink surface water during an algal bloom, even if it is treated, because in-home treatments such as boiling, disinfecting water with chlorine or ultraviolet (UV), and water filtration units do not protect people from HABs toxins (DEC).
Talk to your healthcare provider or contact a poison control center for advice about how to relieve your symptoms. Let them know that you might have recently come in contact with cyanobacteria or its toxins. Information about the suspected cause of your illness might help your healthcare provider manage your symptoms. Report suspected exposures to NYS Department of Health.
Dogs are especially at risk of poisoning because of their behaviors, which can include swimming in contaminated waters, drinking contaminated water, eating dead fish and other animals found near a bloom, and licking algae or scum from their fur after swimming.
Stumbling, seizures, convulsions, paralysis
Excessive salivation or drooling
Disorientation, inactivity or depression
Elevated heart rate, and difficulty breathing
If possible, keep your dog on a leash near shorelines. Don’t let dogs wade, drink the water or eat/walk in beach debris. If your dog goes in the water please remove them immediately. Don’t let them lick their fur or paws after getting out of the water. Rinse/wash them thoroughly with fresh water from a safe source if available.
If you see or suspect any of these symptoms, particularly within 30 minutes to a few hours after exposure to an algal bloom, seek immediate veterinarian care.
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