Pinellas County has identified a bloom of Lyngbya, a blue-green algae, in an area of Gulfport and is advising citizens to avoid contact with it and keep their pets away.
Pets can become sick from blue-green algae and Lyngbya can cause sore throats and watery eyes in people. Lyngbya can appear in lumps or mats and can have a strong musty odor when disturbed. Its causes are unknown, but warm water and nutrients from stormwater runoff, including grass clippings and pet waste, can contribute to algae blooms.
Nutrients remaining in the system from last year’s red tide event may also be a contributing factor. These blooms often dissipate on their own.
The Florida Department of Health advises citizens not to wade, swim or swallow water where algae blooms are present. Swimming in water with blue-green algae may cause ear, eye and skin reactions and hay fever and flu-like symptoms, although these reactions aren’t common.
Because some types of blooms can remove oxygen from the water, fish kills can occur. Blue-green algae (also known as cyanobacteria) can grow naturally in many of Florida’s waterbodies. Large concentrations, or blooms, can change the water color to blue, green, brown orange or red. Blooms can appear year-round but are more frequent in summer and fall.