Deadly blue-green algae now in Illinois; How you can recognize the threat and avoid it

Local News

CENTRAL ILLINOIS–Blue-green algae has caused multiple deaths to pets across the country.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency wants to warn people about how dangerous it is not just for your pets, but your children as well.

The blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, has been popping up in some of Illinois’ lakes and streams.

The algae produces very quickly in the summer months due to the warm and humid weather.

The rapid growth of the algae, also referred to as a “bloom,” poses threats to the health of animals and humans.

“Anywhere you have a standing body of water like a pond or an inland waterway off the Illinois River where there’s not a lot of current, it should be something for concern,” said Michael Johnson, Director of Fondulac Park District.

TAPS No-Kill Animal Shelter Executive Director Holly Crotty says to just keep your pets out of standing water for the next few months.

“Just to be on the safe side until the high-risk time is over, it would be better to buy a plastic pool and put it in your backyard so your animal can splash around in that,” Crotty said.

Johnson says the most dangerous time for swimmers to get in these bodies of water with algae on its surface are in the summertime.

“Especially when you take the type of weather we’ve had this year in central Illinois. You get really hot, humid weather July, August, September, that’s when you’re gonna see this water pop up,” said Johnson.

While it is fun to take our pets and let them swim in the water, Johnson says our pets lives are much more important than just one day at the lake.

“I wouldn’t personally put my pet in any standing water or pond at this point.  You don’t wanna take a chance.  If you see any type of algae that has a blue green color to it, it’s always good to let the Department of Public Health know about that,” said Johnson.

“The sad part is, if the dog is exposed to it, the likelihood of them surviving are very very low. It starts shutting down their internal organs very very quickly.”

Johnson says the hot and humid months cause a lot of stagnant water, which increases the amount of algae on water surfaces.

“You can see patches of it moving down a river, very unlikely.  It’s usually where you get the water that’s more stagnant, like in a pond setting where you’re gonna have it form along the shoreline,” said Johnson.

Johnson says even if it’s not the blue-green algae, he still doesn’t recommend getting into the water with it on the surface.

“We don’t recommend it mainly because you don’t know what’s under that water.  There’s a lot of obstacles that could get you hung up.  It’s just a good idea to stay out of it if you see any type of algae patch on the waterway,” Johnson said.

In a few months the weather will cool down and Johnson says the harmful algae should dissipate.

“It’ll start dying off, but when you have hot, humid weather for any extended period of time that just makes it grow a little bit quicker.  You’re gonna have some of it in any body of water, but when it gets to this type of weather and temperature, it makes it grow very very quickly and it’s a very toxic algae,” said Johnson.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency says children are more susceptible to the algaes’ effects due to lower body weight and because they have more sensitive skin.

They also are more likely to inhale or swallow water while swimming.

If you do come into contact with the blue-green algae or the harmful toxins, immediately wash yourself, child, or pet with soap and clean water then rinse thoroughly to remove the algae.

Whether there is algae on the water or not, the Illinois EPA says to never drink untreated surface water.

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