By Dr. Carl Palazzolo, DVM, Long Beach Animal Hospital, and Kate Karp, Long Beach Post columnist
Photo by Wildcat
In late April, the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services joined with the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board and other state and local environmental and public health agencies to warn Long Beach residents about a potential health threat in the ponds at El Dorado Park. Recreational visitors to El Dorado East Regional Park must exercise caution after environmental testing confirmed the presence of cyanobacteria harmful algal blooms (cyanoHABs), also known as harmful or blue-green algae blooms, in bodies of water at the park. Lab testing confirmed presence of cyanobacteria species capable of producing many cyanobacteria toxins, which occur in freshwater systems.
This photo was taken at South Pond in Area III of El Dorado Park. It shows algal bloom, bright-green in color. Courtesy of Long Beach Health and Human Services.
Low levels of the toxin anatoxin-a were detected. The levels of this neurotoxin exceeded the caution trigger level, recommending cautionary signs to be posted near recreational areas and any area that provides access to the water.
Although the concentration of the toxin is low and doesn’t pose a threat to people swimming in the water—prohibited in the parks at any rate—it can be dangerous to humans and potentially fatal to animals, dogs and ducks in this case, if ingested.
There’s no set deadline as to when the ponds will be clear. Here are some safety points from LBAH:
- Keep children and pets away from these areas until further notice. Do not let them get any water in their mouths from anywhere near the ponds.
- Dogs and wildlife tend to get more exposure to these algae because they drink the water. Look for a greenish stain anywhere on your pet’s body to give you a clue as to exposure.
- Symptoms are highly variable and increase from vomiting and diarrhea to lack of appetite and depression to difficulty breathing, seizures and death.
- If your child exhibits any such signs after visiting the park, get him or her to a doctor immediately.
- If your dog has been in this area and is in any way acting out of the ordinary, bring it to the vet immediately. There is no antidote, so prevention of exposure in the first place and immediate treatment by a veterinarian are the best ways to handle this problem.