There’s a new potential for “red tide” off the western Panhandle, according to the Florida Department of Health, just over a month after the first such reports.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting red tide concentrations will increase the next few days along portions of northwest Florida. That leading to an elevated potential for respiratory irritation in Escambia, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties.
“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.”
Red tide also has the potential to cause skin irritation for some people. Anyone affected by a red tide needs to go inside to an air-conditioned building or leave the area completely. When a person leaves the area, the symptoms typically go away. But if that doesn’t help, it’s time to call the doctor.
DOH-Escambia’s Dr. John Lanza also says there’s no association with red tide, and the Deepwater Horizon disaster.