HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A blue-green algae bloom alert has been issued for Hillsborough County, the health department announced Tuesday.

Health officials said harmful blue-green algal toxins were found in the Hillsborough River (north of Morris Bridge Road, west of Interstate 75) after a water sample was taken on Thursday, Aug. 4.

People should exercise caution in and around this area of the Hillsborough River, the health department said.

According to the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County, residents and visitors should take the follow precautions:

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have contact with algae or discolored or smelly water.
  • Keep pets away from the area. Waters where there are algae blooms are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should have a different source of water when algae blooms are present.
  • Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins.
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts and cook fish well.
  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.

Health officials said blue-green algae are a type of bacteria that is common in Florida’s freshwater environments. They said that “a bloom occurs when rapid growth of algae leads to an accumulation of individual cells that discolor water and often produce floating mats that emit unpleasant odors.”

Blooms can appear year-round but are more common in summer and fall.

The Florida Department of Health said that blue-green algae blooms can impact human health and ecosystems, including fish and other aquatic animals.

If you see an algae bloom, you should call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute at 800-636-0511.