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Toxic blue-green algae could show up in ND early this year

BISMARCK, N.D. – Toxic blue-green algae could show up early in some of North Dakota’s waters because of the recent hot days, according to the state department of health.

Mike Ell with the department’s division of water quality said algae blooms are most common in North Dakota in late summer, but he issued a warning to watch for the algae now.

Blue-green algae discolors the water and can cause foam, scum, or mats to appear on the surface and in severe cases it can have the appearance of spilled green paint or green pea soup.

People, pets and livestock that swallow water containing the toxic cyanotoxins in the algae blooms can become sick with diarrhea, vomiting, numbness, rashes, dizziness or skin blisters.

In severe cases of ingesting contaminated water, cyanotoxins can result in death. There are no known antidotes for the cyanotoxins, he said.

Ell said the department tests water for toxins and, if they are detected, issues advisories to the public. However, because it can take time to test water, people are urged to be cautious and avoid waters that look discolored, scummy, or have a foul odor.

As for livestock Dr. Michelle Mostrom with North Dakota State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Lab said a primary concern with cattle affected by cyanobacteria is that these harmful algal blooms can occur quickly, within a day, and it’s difficult for livestock producers to check water quality daily. Some of these cyanotoxins are quick acting neurotoxins and can kill livestock in a few minutes to a few hours; no treatment will be effective after the toxin has been absorbed.