Willits >> Parents of young children and dog owners are advised to avoid the Eel River as toxic blue green algae has recently been discovered, Mendocino County officials reported.
According to the Mendocino County Executive Office, a dog recently died after swimming in a section of the Eel River located downstream of Lake Pillsbury in the eastern part of Mendocino County.
Test results from the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory confirmed that the death was related to the ingestion of toxic cyanobacteria, commonly referred to as “blue green algae.” Toxic algae has also been documented in areas along the South and Middle Forks of the Eel River since June.
The extended drought is apparently contributing to the algae blooms due to the corresponding low water levels. While most algae does not present a hazard, “some species of blue green algae have the ability to produce toxins, including neurotoxins and dermatologic toxins, which can cause serious health effects for humans and animals,” Mendocino County officials reported in a press release.
“Children and pets are the most at risk and should be prevented from entering water that contains algae,” the release states. “Dogs are particularly vulnerable because they tend to drink the water and lick the algae off their fur, (but also) children tend to take in water when playing and splashing in it.”
Algae blooms “can look like green, blue-green, white or brown foam, scum or mats floating on the water or along the shore,” and the release notes that “you cannot tell if an algae bloom is toxic just by looking at it.”
If animals or humans have contact with algae toxins, they can experience irritation at their eyes, nose, mouth or skin, have gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and liver inflammation, and have neurological symptoms such as muscle tremors, seizures and difficulty breathing.
Property owners who draw water from the river are advised that boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins.
Everyone is advised to not let their children or pets “drink, swim, wade or play near scums or mats in the river, particularly along the shoreline,” and to “wash your children and pets with clean water” after they go into the river.
Anyone who has a pet that becomes ill or dies after exposure to blue green algae is asked to report the incident to the Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency — Environmental Health at 234-6625.