Florida Red Tide Latest Update: Algae Blooms Cause Hospitalizations, Kill Marine Wildlife
FLORIDA – August 1, 2018
The Southwest coast of Florida is a popular tourist destination especially in the summer. Unfortunately, today, the landscape is far from ideal. Hundreds of thousands of fish rot in the hot sun on 19 different beaches in Lee County. The awful stench and toxic discharge provoked a terrible phenomenon called "red tide".
Red tide has been documented along Florida's Gulf Coast since the 1840s and occurs nearly every year. Blooms, or higher-than-normal concentrations, of the Florida red tide alga Karenia brevis frequently occur in the Gulf of Mexico, starting 10 to 40 miles offshore and transported inward by winds and currents.
This year's algae blooms have been blamed for illnesses and scores of deaths among marine animals. Red tide is known to cause respiratory issues, and breathing problems were reported Monday at Lovers Key State Park. Stuart, a Florida-based sports magazine, closed its office after the algae blooms appeared to make staffers sick, local media reported.
The illnesses are attributed to toxic cyanobacteria, which can cause rashes and eye irritation, nausea, vomiting and allergy-like symptoms in humans. Drinking water with the toxins can cause long-term liver disease, health officials said.
In total, exposure to toxic algae sent more than 15 people to emergency rooms as problems stemming from this historic red tide continue.
The emergency room visits came from people who had contact with the St. Lucie River, according to tcpalm.com. Governor Rick Scott had previously declared a state of emergency in seven Florida counties — Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Glades, Hendry, Lee and Okeechobee — after algae blooms tainted the water in the wake of discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
The Army Corps of Engineers temporarily suspended scheduled flows from the lake, but recently restarted water-lowering efforts.
As of July 30, the National Weather Service said red tide has also been reported in Sarasota and Collier counties.
The current plague caused by the "red tide" is one of the largest in the history of the state. Red tide season typically lasts from October to around February, but this algae bloom started much earlier. The algae are blamed for more than 4,000 fish and scores of sea turtle deaths.