Panhandle Health District warns public of dangerous algae bloom in local lakes

HAYDEN, Idaho.–If you’re headed to Spirit Lake or Lake Cocolalla to cool off this Labor Day weekend, you may need to be careful.

Harmful algae has been detected in the lakes and now the Panhandle Health District is sounding the alarm.

Amanda Ackerman says she decided to visit Spirit Lake Friday with her family to cool off and enjoy the water, and didn’t expect to see harmful algae during her trip. Knowing that this is a problem worries her, especially as her young niece plays in the water.

“She comes out here a lot”, Ackerman said. “But now knowing there’s algae and it could be left harmful, we’ll probably limit her time out here and hope for the best.”

The algae, also known as cyanobacteria, can be harmful in large amounts.

“They’re naturally occurring,” said Katherine Hoyer, Communications Director for the Panhandle Health District. “But when the Department of Environmental Quality tests, and that threshold is reached, it means the water is now toxic.”

Recently, the health district advised people heading to Spirit Lake or Lake Cocolalla to be careful due to the toxic algae blooms.

“So sometimes in a body of water with a harmful algal bloom present, you’ll have a rash on your skin or you’ll have vomiting or diarrhea,” Hoyer said.

Hoyer said in pets, the symptoms can be even more severe.

“Most of the time dogs will hop in the water but then once they come out they’ll lick their fur, which is normal for a dog to do. But, that means they’re ingesting more toxins so they can be severely ill,” Hoyer said.

If you suspect you came in contact with the algae and develop symptoms, it’s best to see a doctor, but Hoyer said that when in doubt, it’s best to stay out. She also said if you do come into contact with the algae, make sure to rinse off with fresh water as soon as possible.

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