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Workshop discusses recognizing, treating effects of toxic algal blooms

May 27, 2016

As temperatures rise, conditions become more ideal for toxic microorganisms to thrive in lakes and ponds.

Of particular concern in Ohio is cyanobacteria, also called blue-green algae, which yields various toxins that are harmful to humans and pets. In addition to creating a thick layer of green scum on the surface of water, blue-green algae may also produce microcystins, which can be deadly to dogs and other animals that swim in it.

Blue-green algae is just one example of a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB), which are the main topic of a continuing education workshop being held from 9:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. on June 2 at the Lucas County EMS Training Center in Toledo, Ohio.

“They can cause different symptoms such as skin irritation, respiratory problems, eye irritation, etc., and even death,” said Erin Osborne, a second-year graduate student in Ohio State’s Veterinary Public Health program. “When water doesn’t move enough or it sits still, these blooms can grow, especially when the weather gets warmer.”

Veterinary, public health and medical professionals are invited to the HAB workshop, which will provide 3 CE credits to veterinarians licensed in the state of Ohio, on behalf of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

The workshop is being held by the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, and aims to provide relevant professionals with knowledge on the toxic effects of HABs on animal and human health. Additional goals include educating professionals on what is currently being done to bring awareness to the issue, as well as how to recognize, treat and report the symptoms of recreational exposure to HABs.

“I think a lot of people are taking their animals to bodies of water that are currently experiencing a high level of toxins, and they’re not aware that it can be harmful to their health,” Osborne said. “Then they end up in the emergency room, or they’re taking their pet to the vet, and they don’t really know what’s wrong.”

A 2013 study identified 231 cyanobacteria HAB events and 368 cyanobacteria poisoning cases associated with dogs in the U.S. between the late 1920s and 2012, but there were likely more that were never formally reported.

“We’ve noticed there is a lack of sufficient data on animal reporting,” Osborne said. “So after the workshop, we’re going to be administering a survey to veterinarians in Ohio and Michigan to start. We’re curious to see if vets are aware of the symptoms and know how to treat them.”

Lake Erie will be a big talking point at the workshop, Osborne said, since it’s right near Toledo. Of additional concern are any of the Great Lakes, the Sandusky Bay region and Buckeye Lake.

“But really any slower-moving body of water can be affected by HABs,” she added. “Even a small pond in someone’s backyard.”

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For more information, please contact Laura DeRose at 


Last updated: 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - 11:29am