Lake Isabella visitors urged to be cautious

County health advisory warns residents and tourists about return of harmful algae

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Lake Isabella visitors urged to be cautiousA public advisory has gone out again this summer for potentially harmful algal blooms in Kern waterways.

“Yes, this is similar to last year,” said Kern County Public Health Services Public Relations Officer Michelle Corson, who issued a warning when the mysterious blue-green algae was reported last summer.

“These blooms appear to be cyclical, and things like temperature and light have an impact on their growth.”

Last year’s awareness campaign was sparked by dangerous toxins found in the cyanobacteria in some parts of Lake Isabella.

Effective immediately, the same water-contact advisory has been issued for Kissack Cove and Paradise Cove.

“Health advisory signs will be posted this week that advise recreational users to use caution and avoid contact with water in these designated areas,” says a news release from KCPHS.

According to the warning, increased water temperatures, slow-moving water and excessive nutrients or organic matter can cause algae to rapidly multiply and create the harmful algal blooms — which are reportedly capable of producing toxins and causing significant health concerns.

“Be aware that cyanobacteria toxins can be present even though a bloom is not visible,” reports KCPHS. “HABs vary in color and may range from vibrant to dark green, blue-green, yellow, brown, black, or red. Not all HABs will appear on the water’s surface as some are at the bottom of a waterbody, and others float at various depths.

“Dogs, wildlife and children are most likely to be affected because of their smaller body size and tendency to stay in the water for longer periods of time.”

Recreational exposure to cyanobacteria and associated toxins can cause eye irritation, skin rash, mouth ulcers, vomiting, diarrhea and cold or flu-like symptoms. Pets can be especially susceptible because they tend to drink while in the water and lick their fur after, increasing their risk of exposure and illness. Symptoms of animal illness include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, abnormal liver function test results, difficulty breathing, foaming at the mouth, muscle twitching and sometimes death.

The health department offered the following tips for staying safe:

• Heed all instruction on posted advisory signs

• Avoid body contact with algae blooms

• Keep an eye on children and dogs, ensuring that they do not approach areas with algal blooms

• Do not drink untreated lake or river water. Common water purification techniques such as camping filters, tablets and boiling do not remove toxins

• Do not cook or wash dishes with lake or river water

• Wash yourself, your family and your pets with clean water after you swim in the lake or river.

• Consume fish only after cleaning and preparing thoroughly

For information visit my waterquality.ca.gov/habs/ or kern publichealth.com.

Pictured: Algae is visible in the wake left by a boat skimming the surface of Lake Isabella. -- Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2017-06-30