CDC launches national reporting system, information website for harmful algal blooms

[USA] The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today launched the first national reporting system for harmful algal blooms.

The One Health Harmful Algal Bloom System will collect data on harmful algal blooms and illnesses associated with the bacteria the blooms produce, such as the microcystin that contaminated Toledo’s drinking water and forced a three-day shut-down of the system in 2014.

The CDC is encouraging state and local public health agencies to use this voluntary system to report harmful algal blooms and associated illnesses.

The CDC also introduced a new website with important information for health officials and the public. The site provides information on how to recognize harmful algal blooms and what people can do to protect themselves, their families, and their pets.

Lake Erie has been experiencing harmful algal blooms for decades, but they’ve been increasing in size and severity in recent years. Last year’s bloom was the largest on record.

Next week, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who track the blooms, will present their seasonal forecast for the Lake Erie bloom of 2016. The event will be held at Ohio State University’s Stone Lab on July 7.

Scientists link the growth of harmful algal blooms to climate change, farming practices, storm and wastewater runoff, and other environmental issues.

Rapid growth of algae can create harmful blooms that produce toxins that pass into the air, water, or food, or severely deplete oxygen in bodies of water. These blooms can harm animals, people, and the local ecology.

Toxins released by harmful algal blooms can cause a variety of illnesses in people or animals such as coughing or respiratory problems. Swimming in water with a harmful algal bloom can cause skin rashes or other symptoms. People also can become sick from eating fish or shellfish or drinking tap water contaminated with the toxins.


Photo: Collin O’Mara, president of the National Wildlife Federation, displays a glass of algae filled Lake Erie water collected near the Toledo water intake crib in August 2014 when the city’s water supply was contaminated and the system was shut down for three days.

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