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Elevated Levels Of Red Tide Found Off Sarasota Coast

 Elevated levels of Karenia Brevis, the organism that causes red tide, have been found off the coast of Sarasota.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Elevated levels of Karenia Brevis, the organism that causes red tide, have been found off the coast of Sarasota.

Elevated levels of red tide have been detected off the coast of Sarasota, the Florida Department of Health reported on Friday.

The state also received reports of respiratory irritation associated with the algal bloom, a release from the health department in Sarasota said.

Signs warning beachgoers about red tide are being placed at Longboat Key, Bird Key Park, North Lido Beach, Lido Casino, South Lido, Siesta Beach, Turtle Beach, Nokomis Beach and North Jetty Beach.

This bloom comes within weeks of a major discharge of nutrient-rich water into Tampa Bay from the Piney Point phosphate mine in Manatee County.

More than 200 million gallons of water was released from a reservoir after a leak was found in one of its walls.

A steel plate was placed over the leak to contain it but this week state officials discovered that part of the plate had become detached. The water flowing from the leak is being held onsite, officials said.

It’s not clear whether the discharge into Tampa Bay may be feeding the red tide, which occurs naturally off Florida’s coast, but is fueled by nutrients in the water from fertilizers and other elements found in runoff.

Computer models from the University of South Florida showed much of the water remaining in the bay with portions flowing out to the Gulf of Mexico.

Some people may experience respiratory symptoms from red tide like those associated with a mild cold, including irritation to the eyes, nose and throat. The symptoms tend to go away when the person leaves the area or goes indoors.

However, people with breathing problems, such as asthma, may experience more severe symptoms.

For those who encounter red tide, the health department shared the following tips:

  • Do not swim around dead fish.
  • If you have chronic respiratory problems, consider staying away from the beach as red tide can affect your breathing.
  • Do not harvest or eat molluscan shellfish and distressed or dead fish. If fish are healthy, rinse fillets with tap or bottled water and throw out the guts.
  • Keep pets and livestock away from water, sea foam and dead sea life.
  • Residents living in beach areas are advised to close windows and run the air conditioner (making sure that the A/C filter is maintained according to manufacturer's specifications).
  • If outdoors, residents may choose to wear paper filter masks, especially if onshore winds are blowing.

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Julio Ochoa is editor of Health News Florida.