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Health officials warn against recreation on parts of Hayden Lake over blue-green algae blooms

UPDATED: Tue., July 27, 2021

Toxic blue-green algae blooms in Hayden Lake.  (Idaho Department of Environmental Quality)
Toxic blue-green algae blooms in Hayden Lake. (Idaho Department of Environmental Quality)

Toxic blue-green algae blooms have made waters in parts of Hayden Lake unsafe, forcing the Panhandle Health District and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality to issue a public health advisory.

The advisory urges the public to use caution when recreating in or near waters in the northern portion of Hayden Lake, especially when ingestion is a risk.

Idaho DEQ has observed the algae as far south as Chicken Point, according to a news release from the agency.

Even though the advisory singles out the northern portion of the lake, any areas where waters appear murky or discolored should be avoided since blue-green algae can spread with wind or water currents.

Blue-green algae, despite the name, is actually not algae at all, but a large class of cyanobacteria that thrive in warm and nutrient-rich waters. The bacteria produces dangerous toxins when in high enough concentrations.

Blue-green algae can have immediate detrimental health effects on humans swimming in it, including skin rash, runny nose and irritated eyes, according to the Idaho DEQ.

Effects can be even worse if swallowed, including diarrhea and vomiting. Toxins of this kind cannot be removed by boiling water.

Pets, children, the elderly and the immunocompromised are most at risk of detrimental health effects.

Those who eat fish from the lake should remove all fat, skin and organs as toxins can accumulate in these parts, according to the news release.

Blue-green algae is not uncommon in Hayden Lake, with similar health advisories issued for cyanobacteria in the summers of 2015 and 2016.

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