TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County issued a health advisory on Wednesday to remind residents about the presence of red tide along area beaches.
Health officials said recent samplings of the water detected elevated levels of toxic Karenia brevis—the organism that causes red tide— at all of the county’s 16 beaches.
The affected beaches are Bird Key Park / Ringling Causeway, North Lido Beach, Lido Casino Beach, South Lido Beach, Siesta Key Beach, Longboat Key Beach, Turtle Beach, Nokomis Beach, North Jetty Beach, Venice Beach, Service Club Beach, Venice Fishing Pier, Brohard Beach, Casperson Beach, Manasota Key Beach and Blind Pass Beach.
Red tide is a type of harmful algal bloom (HAB), an overgrowth of toxic algae that can harm people, animals, and the environment. Such toxins can kill fish and make shellfish dangerous to eat. The toxic air can cause difficulty breathing.
Although cell counts remain at low to medium levels, health officials are warning people with chronic respiratory problems, such as asthma, to avoid those beaches.
“Some people may have mild and short-lived respiratory symptoms such as eye, nose, and throat irritation like those associated with the common cold or seasonal sinus allergies. Some individuals with existing breathing problems, such as asthma, might experience more severe effects,” the advisory said.
The department offered the following tips to help residents be safe from red tide poisoning:
- Do not swim around dead fish.
- If you have chronic respiratory problems, consider staying away from the beach as red tide can affect your breathing.
- Do not harvest or eat molluscan shellfish and distressed or dead fish. If fish are healthy, rinse fillets with tap or bottled water and throw out the guts.
- Keep pets and livestock away from water, sea foam, and dead sea life.
- Residents living in beach areas who experience respiratory symptoms are advised to close windows and run the air conditioner (ensuring that the A/C filter is maintained according to the manufacturer’s specifications).
- If outdoors, residents may choose to wear paper filter masks, especially if onshore winds are blowing.
To report illnesses, including health effects from exposure to red tide, call the Florida Poison Control Center’s toll-free hotline at 1-888-222-1222.