Health advisory issued for Fernan Lake in North Idaho, yet another cyanobacteria victim

Idaho Statesman

Algae is pictured along the shore of Fernan Lake this month.

A public health advisory was issued Thursday for Fernan Lake. The advisory, issued by Panhandle Health District in collaboration with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, states that recent water sampling indicates the presence of cyanobacteria, a harmful algae bloom, in the lake.

The agencies are urging the public to use caution when recreating in or near the water, especially where ingestion is a risk. TOP VIDEOS × Cyanobacteria are a natural part of Idaho’s water bodies. When temperatures rise, their populations can bloom and toxic chemical compounds, or cyanotoxins, can be released into the water.

Caution should be taken anywhere where the water appears discolored or murky as harmful algae blooms can spread or move with wind and water currents. Harmful algae blooms have the potential to produce dangerous toxins especially when accumulated in high concentrations. The physical appearance of these blooms can be unsightly, often presenting as discolored water, streaks or globs of scum and causing thick green mats along lake shorelines. Pets, children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems are most at-risk of harmful exposure.

Anyone recreating in Fernan Lake is advised to take precautions to avoid exposure to lake water appearing to contain a harmful algae bloom. Private domestic water system owners using the lake as a drinking water source are cautioned that potentially present toxins cannot be removed by boiling or filtering the water.

If contact (swimming, bathing, or showering) has been made with water containing a harmful algae bloom, it is recommended to wash off with fresh water. If people choose to eat fish from the lake, it is recommended that they remove all fat, skin and organs before cooking, since toxins are more likely to collect in those tissues. Symptoms of exposure to algal toxins vary according to exposure. Symptoms include rashes, hives, diarrhea, vomiting, coughing, and/or wheezing.

More severe symptoms affecting the liver and nervous system may result from ingestion of water. If symptoms persist, consult with your health care provider. Four popular Idaho bodies of water — Brownlee Reservoir, CJ Strike, Hells Canyon Reservoir and Lake Cascade — have had outbreaks this summer.

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