North Carolina

Toxic algae found in North Carolina lake. ‘Keep children and pets away,’ officials warn

Toxic algae was found in a large North Carolina lake, and health officials warn to keep pets and children away.

While investigating a complaint at High Rock Lake, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services discovered blue-green algae in the lake, the Davidson County Health Department said, according to WXII.

High Rock Lake is the second-largest lake in the state and is about 120 miles west of Raleigh.

The sample tested positive as Lyngbya wollei, a type of cyanobacteria, WGHP reported.

Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, bloom and multiply beneath the surface of fresh water when it’s warm and stagnant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, then extraneous matter, known as scum, floats to the surface.

Although it’s called blue-green algae, it can also be red or brown, the CDC says.

Health officials say not to touch the algae accumulations and to keep children and pets away from water that “appears discolored or scummy.”

Officials also say not to use scummy water for “cleaning or irrigation” and not to water ski or jet ski over algal mats, according to the news outlet.

If pets stumble, stagger or collapse after being in the water or if children seem sick after being in the water, the health department says to seek medical attention from a vet or doctor, officials say.

Lyngbya wollei is common in North Carolina, the health department says, according to the Winston-Salem Journal, but this is the first case of it in High Rock Lake.

But it’s not the first case of toxic algae in North Carolina this summer.

In August, three dogs in North Carolina died from toxic algae after swimming in a lake in Wilmington, McClatchy news group reported in August.

Residents in Mecklenburg were warned in August to stay away from more than a dozen ponds that tested positive for toxic algae, The Charlotte Observer reported.

These toxic blooms were also found in several areas in eastern North Carolina in July, McClatchy reported.

The toxins produced by cyanobacteria can “affect the kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, liver, and nervous system of people, pets, livestock and other animals,” with children and dogs being the most vulnerable, the NC Department of Health and Human Services says.

They can also cause dermatitis and blisters on the skin, and conjunctivitis, swelling, watering and sensitivity to light in the eyes, the CDC says.

“If you are unsure whether or not a bloom is present, it is best to stay out of the water,” the DHHS says.

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Bailey Aldridge is a reporter covering real-time news in North and South Carolina. She has a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.