Illinois health officials warning of toxic algae's effect on pets after dog deaths reported in other states

Following recent reports of illnesses and dog deaths in other parts of the country, Illinois health officials are warning of the danger from potentially toxic blue-green algae to people and pets.

Water conditions in the summer months are ideal for algae blooms, which are microscopic organisms that occur naturally in lakes, streams, rivers and ponds, according to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Public Health. Though most blue-green algae are harmless, some can produce toxic chemicals that cause sickness in people and animals.

Within the past week, news outlets are reporting that multiple dogs have died after swimming in waters containing harmful algae in other states, including North Carolina, Georgia and Texas. The reports have resulted in numerous inquiries to the IEPA, spokeswoman Kim Biggs said.

Residents are encouraged to exercise caution while swimming or participating in recreational activities on Illinois waterways, officials said. Pets should not be allowed to drink from water that contains blue-green algae, nor allowed to lick their fur after swimming in it.

Any person or animal who comes in contact with a possible algae bloom should immediately be rinsed off with clean, fresh water.

Exposure to toxic algae could be through direct skin contact, accidental ingestion of contaminated water or the inhalation of water droplets in the air, health officials said. Symptoms include rashes, hives, diarrhea, vomiting, coughing or wheezing.

In June, Woods Creek Lake in Lake in the Hills was shut down for eight days due to the presence of potentially toxic algae. Village officials notified the IEPA and posted signs warning residents to avoid contact with the water.

Not all blooms are reported to the state, officials said, so residents should be aware of suspicious-looking water. Algae-infested waters often look like spilled green or blue-green paint; have surface scums, mats or films; are discolored or have green streaks; or have green globs suspended in the water below the surface.

Residents will not be affected by activities near water such as camping, picnicking, biking and hiking, though they are encouraged to wash their hands before eating if they come into contact with water or shore debris.

For more information, visit the IEPA algae website at

  Illinois health and environmental officials warn that blue-green algae, which has the potential to release toxic chemicals, can appear as green globs suspended in the water and be harmful to both people and pets. John Starks/
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