Lake County residents look for ways to keep cool in Fourth of July heat amidst blue algae concerns

Beating the heat - and beach bacteria

MENTOR, Ohio - Lake County residents looked for ways to keep cool in Fourth of July heat amidst blue algae concerns.

Lake County General Health District found blue-green algae days ago on Lake Erie within and possibly extending beyond Lake County's borders and put up a warning sign at Mentor Headlands Beach Wednesday afternoon.

Small children and their parents appreciated the water at Edward R. Walsh Park in Mentor for a hot Fourth of July.

Parent Amy Lombardo and her daughter even enjoyed the liquid relief.

"Oh my gosh, it's so hot. This is a perfect way to cool off. We're enjoying the nice, cool water and it's just a great place for the kids cause they can run around," said Lombardo.

Dan Malkamaki and his family decided to celebrate their freedoms by hitting the beach. "We're having a wonderful time celebrating the 4th here at Headland's Beach just making sure we lather up the kids, protecting them from all those bad skin diseases," he explained rubbing sunscreen on his youngest son.

As people frolicked and played, taking advantage of the chance to hang out with family and friends, and get some sun, Malkamaki said he is cognizant of the lurking dangers.

The sun's rays are not the only potential danger that could dampen the day.

According to the Lake County General Health District, a bacteria called blue algae was found in Lake Erie on July 2 and could be near Mentor Headlands Beach.

"At this point we heard they were still checking at Fairport and a little bit east of here to see if the water quality is okay, but at Headlands as far as we know it's okay. Obviously we need to be concerned," said Malkamaki.

Laboratory samples collected from the lake confirmed the presence of a harmful algal bloom (HAB). The HAB is a large growth of naturally-occurring bacteria that can produce toxins (poisons), according to health officials. The toxin may still be present if the bloom cannot be seen.

A sign was posted just after noon at Mentor Headlands Beach warning that the blue algae could be present. It stressed that swimmers should not swallow the lake water at all.

Until test results for the toxins are received at the end of the week, the public is strongly urged to follow these recommendations: Beach visitors should be aware of the risk of contact with water where HAB has been found. Boaters and jet skiers are cautioned that water spray contact on skin and breathing in/inhaling water droplets could cause health problems.

The toxins can cause obvious symptoms to occur, like skin rash, blisters, or hives. Vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, tingling, numbness, sore throat and headaches are some symptoms.

In severe cases, liver or kidney damage may occur.

Health officials said if your or your pet are exposed to waters where HAB may have been found, you should completely rinse off after coming out of the water. Avoid accidental ingestion or drinking of any surface water at the beach.

Fish may be eaten at your own risk. If you choose to eat it, be sure to remove the intestines, fat, and skin.

They have asked the public to obey the warning signs placed at area beaches.

The signs will be updated to include stronger warnings if toxins are identified. The most up-to-date information can be found at the LCGHD website at www.lcghd.org.

Additional information, including specific veterinary and medical fact sheets may be found at www.ohioalgaeinfo.com.

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