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Red Tide Visits NWFL Waters

Photo via Flickr// FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

  Residents along the Escambia County coastline are being advised to protect themselves against exposure to Florida Red Tide.

At last check, moderate to high levels of the Red Tide organism are predicted to be present from Friday through Sunday, according to the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County.

“Red Tide is caused by a type of algae – Karenia brevis – it’s better known as ‘Red Tide’ when we see blooms – large numbers of these organisms in one particular place,” says Dr. John Lanza, DOH-Escambia Director. He adds that the microscopic algae is common along the southwest Florida coast.

“It rarely makes its way up to northwest Florida,” Lanza says. “We were racking our brains to try to figure out when was the last time it was up here. It was sometime between 10 and 14 years ago that it was off the coasts of Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when Karenia brevis grow quickly, the blooms created make the ocean appear red or brown. While not affecting everyone who comes in contact with it, Lanza says a red tide can be unpleasant for those sensitive to the breve toxin.

“With all the wave action that occurs on a beach, some of it gets into the air,” said Lanza. “[People] breathe it in and get nasal congestion, eye irritation, and lung irritation sometimes, especially those who have underlying lung problems, such as asthma, COPD, and emphysema.”

A rash can also occur after contact with affected water, but it usually goes away within 24 hours. Those irritated by a red tide are advised to go inside an air-conditioned building or leave the area. If those measures don’t help, then call your physician. The good news, says Lanza, is that there are no long-term effects, and that blooms are not connected in any way with the oil leftover from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

More information on Red Tide can be found at www.myfwc.com/redtide, and at www.cdc.gov.