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Health alerts issued for deadly algae at two NE locations

Algae stink prompts state of emergency
Posted at 2:44 PM, Aug 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-02 15:45:06-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services issued a joint alert about "toxic blue-green algae" which they say was discovered at two different Nebraska lakes including one in Lancaster County.

They found it at Rockford Lake in Gage County and the Wagon Train Lake in Lancaster County. They also said an ongoing alert stands for the Willow Creek Reservoir in Pierce County as well but that another alert issued for the Harlan County Reservoir has ended.

They say the risks of contact can include:

  • Symptoms from external exposure are skin rashes, lesions and blisters. More severe cases can include mouth ulcers, ulcers inside the nose, eye and/or ear irritation and blistering of the lips.
  • Symptoms from ingestion can include headaches, nausea, muscular pains, central abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Severe cases could include seizures, liver failure, respiratory arrest – even death, although this is rare.

They offer these tips to help identify harmful algae:

  • Water that has a neon green, pea green, blue-green or reddish-brown color.
  • Water that has a bad odor.
  • Foam, scum or a thick paint-like appearance on the water surface.
  • Green or blue-green streaks on the surface.
  • Areas with algae that look like grass clippings floating in the water.
  • When algal blooms are present at a lake, avoid protected bays and shorelines on the windward side of the lake. These are areas that generally have higher concentrations of algae, and potentially toxins.

People with with kidney problems and weakened immune systems are at greater risk from exposure.

Samples were taken at the three lakes this week and they say levels of the algae exceeded the state's safe rating. The alerts will be in place for for at least weeks because " lakes that are on health alert must have two consecutive weeks of readings below the threshold before the alert is discontinued."