Officials say that while the reservoir remains open, people recreating near or on the water are advised of the following:
- Do not swim or water ski.
- Do not get the water in your mouth or drink it.
- Avoid areas of algae scum when boating.
- Keep animals away.
- Clean fish well and discard guts.
Just over a week ago, harmful algae mats in the Virgin River left one dog dead and three others sick, causing the Utah Dept. of Environmental Quality to issue a Health Watch. The dogs reportedly became ill after exposure to water in the Virgin River in St. George, Bloomington, and Hurricane.
Harmful algae mats, also known as benthic cyanobacteria, often have a “mucousy, gelatinous texture” and can be green, blue, yellow, or brown, a release states. “They are often toxic and can be found growing on submerged rocks, plants, river banks, and sand, or as floating mats in lakes, reservoirs, and rivers.”
Cyanobacteria naturally live in every water body in the world, according to DEQ. A harmful algal bloom reportedly occurs when cyanobacteria multiply quickly to form a “bloom,” or visible colonies of millions of cells. “Sometimes the cyanobacteria that form these blooms can produce toxins which cause illness and can damage the human kidney, liver, or neurologic system,” DEQ states.
Humans and animals alike are exposed to the toxins when they either ingest algae mat material or drink water in areas containing the harmful algae, DEQ officials say. Dogs are reportedly attracted to the smell of the mats, so pet owners should beware. Additionally, dogs are most at risk for lethal exposure.
Symptoms most commonly reported in pets after exposure to “anatoxin-a” include excessive drooling, stumbling or muscle tremors, difficulty breathing, weakness, seizures, paralysis, and death.
Symptoms begin quickly, officials say, beginning minutes or hours after exposure.
If harmful algae blooms are present in water in your area, do not let your pets drink the water, swim in the water, eat near the water, eat algae or algae mats, or eat dead animals, such as fish, found near the water.
If your pet goes in the water, officials say to rinse them off immediately and do not let them lick their fur. You may contact the Utah Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 to get help. Physicians, pharmacists, and nurses at the center are trained in toxicology and can answer any questions you may have.
To check conditions before visiting a waterbody, or to learn more about harmful algae mats, visit the DEQ’s website here.