The dangerous microscopic algae known as red tide is making its way towards the Gulf Coast, according to state and federal officials.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting red tide concentrations will increase the next few days along portions of Northwest Florida. Officials say that this will lead to an elevated potential for respiratory irritation in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay and Gulf counties.
The Florida Department of Health reminds all people to protect themselves and their families against Florida Red Tide exposure.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when the microscopic algae called Karenia brevis grow quickly, they can create blooms called Florida red tides that make the ocean appear red or brown. K. brevis produces powerful neurotoxins called brevetoxins, which can kill fish and other marine organisms. Florida red tides damage local fishing industries, shoreline quality, and local economies.
Some people who swim among brevetoxins or inhale brevetoxins dispersed in the air may experience irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, as well as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. People with existing respiratory illness, such as asthma, may experience these symptoms more severely.
Red tide does not affect everyone who comes into contact with it and usually symptoms end when a person leaves the area or goes indoors. Avoid exposure by not swimming or boating in these areas. Never eat dead fish or other animals found washed up on shorelines. Health officials recommend that people experiencing these symptoms stay away from beach areas — once a person leaves the red tide area, the symptoms usually go away. If symptoms do not subside, a person should contact their physician for assistance.
The most current information on Red Tide in Florida can be found at myfwc.com/redtide
Beachgoers with respiratory conditions, such as emphysema and asthma, may be more susceptible to red tide irritants. Here are 9 facts on the red tide blooms in Florida:
- In Florida, red tide is caused by a naturally occurring microscopic alga (a plant-like microorganism) called Karenia brevis or K. brevis.
- The organism produces a toxin that can affect the central nervous systems of fish, birds, mammals, and other animals.
- At high concentrations (called blooms), the organism may discolor the water — sometimes red, light or dark green, or brown.
- Red tides or harmful algal blooms (HABs) occur worldwide. K. brevis is found almost exclusively in the Gulf of Mexico but has been found on the east coast of Florida and off the coast of North Carolina.
- Red tide blooms can last days, weeks, or months and can also change daily due to wind conditions and water currents. Onshore winds normally bring it near the shore and offshore winds drive it out to sea.
- Red tide was first officially recorded in Florida in 1844.
- A red tide bloom needs biology (the organisms), chemistry (natural or man-made nutrients for growth), and physics (concentrating and transport mechanisms). No single factor causes it. Tests are being conducted to see if coastal nutrients enhance or prolong blooms.
- Red tide can irritate the skin and breathing of some people.
- Seafood from restaurants and hotels is monitored and is safe to eat.