The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest Service is asking visitors to avoid submerging their heads or ingesting the water in the hot springs. They should also keep their dogs away from the water and take a shower as soon as they are out of the water.
On top of that, hikers are advised to avoid direct contact with benthic mats, which are algal mats that grow on the bottom of a waterbody. These mats are where the toxic bacteria may be found.
“Swimmers should look for algal mats that may have a bright green appearance, generally attached to the surface but may be detached and floating or washed up on shore,” said the Utah Division of Water Quality in a statement.
Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, can produce toxins that make people who are exposed to it through swimming experience irritation in the skin, eyes, nose, throat and lungs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
People who are exposed to the toxins by eating contaminated food or swallowing contaminated water may experience stomach pain, headache, neurological symptoms such as muscle weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or liver damage.
This examination may have been prompted after several hikers reported on AllTrails, an outdoor recreational activities database app, that they have contracted the swimmer’s itch after visiting the springs.
“If you want swimmers itch and to walk on a road for a mile to experience smelly water. This ‘hike’ is for you,” a hiker wrote on AllTrails in their 1-star review of Fifth Water Hot Springs.
Another hiker left a review on Dec. 5 saying they developed a “very itchy rash” a few days after they visited the hot springs on Nov. 26. They said the rash has covered their thighs, neck and back. On Nov. 20, a visitor also left a review saying they contracted a rash and went to the doctor.