Health Department warns again of potential problems for people exposed to red tide
In a Nov. 9 Red Tide Status Update, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) noted 40 samples of Southwest Florida waters showed bloom concentrations of the red tide algae over the past week, including 26 samples in Sarasota County.
A day later, on Nov. 10, the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County expanded a Red Tide Advisory that it issued last week. The latest alert noted elevated levels of red tide at all 16 Sarasota County beaches, as shown in water samples collected on Nov. 7.
Over the past week, FWC said in its update, the red tide algae — Karenia brevis — was observed in 94 samples altogether. Bloom concentrations, which have more than 100,000 cells per liter, also were found in 11 samples collected in and offshore of Charlotte County; two came from Manatee County; and one from Lee County, FWC pointed out.
Although FWC has been issuing weekly reports, it explained that it sent out the Nov. 9 update because its normal reporting day — Friday — is Veterans Day this week, which is a holiday.
In Southwest Florida over the past week, the FWC report continued, Karenia brevis was observed at background to high concentrations in Sarasota County, background to low concentrations offshore of Hillsborough County, background to medium concentrations in Manatee County, very low to high concentrations in and offshore of Charlotte County, very low to high concentrations in Lee County, and low concentrations offshore of Collier County.
Further, the agency noted, respiratory irritation that was suspected to be related to red tide was reported over the past week in Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee counties.
In its Nov. 4 update, FWC reported that the algae had been found in bloom concentrations in seven Sarasota County samples and eight collected in and offshore of Charlotte County.
On Nov. 1, the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County (DOH-Sarasota) issued a Red Tide Alert for various South County beaches: Venice Beach, Service Club Park, the Venice Fishing Pier, Brohard Beach, Caspersen Beach, Manasota Key, and Blind Pass Beach Park.
In its Nov. 10 update, released about midday, the department expanded that alert to include Longboat Key, Bird Key Park and the Ringling Causeway, all of Lido Beach — north and south, Siesta Key, Turtle Beach, Nokomis Beach and the Venice North Jetty Beach.
After the department’s staff found elevated counts of Karenia brevis in water samples collected on Oct. 31, the Nov. 1 alert pointed out, department staff planned to post signage at the affected beaches.
That was the second time since late October that DOH-Sarasota had issued such an alert. The Oct. 19 advisory included Turtle Beach on south Siesta Key, Nokomis Beach and the Venice North Jetty Beach in Nokomis, but not any areas of Manasota Key.
DOH-Sarasota made the following recommendations to the public in all of its recent announcements:
- “Do not swim around dead fish.
- “If you have chronic respiratory problems, consider staying away from the beach as red tide can affect your breathing.
- “Do not harvest or eat molluscan shellfish and distressed or dead fish. If fish are healthy, rinse fillets with tap or bottled water and throw out the guts.
- “Keep pets and livestock away from water, sea foam, and dead sea life.
- “Residents living in beach areas who experience respiratory symptoms are advised to close windows and run the air conditioner (ensuring that the A/C filter is maintained according to the manufacturer’s specifications).
- “If outdoors, residents may choose to wear paper filter masks, especially if onshore winds are blowing.”
During a Nov. 7 presentation to the Sarasota City Commission, David Tomasko, executive director of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP), explained that a 200 square-mile area of red tide” is centered from Venice down to Sanibel Island.”
As of that day, he continued, it was moving “a little bit to the north.”
The vast majority of the bloom was located off the coastline, Tomasko added.
“It is most likely made much worse” because of the stormwater runoff and sewage spills produced by Hurricane Ian in late September, he told the commissioners.
The DOH-Sarasota advisory also pointed out that Florida Poison Control Centers have a toll-free 24/7 hotline for reporting illnesses, including health effects from exposure to red tide. That number is 1-888-222-122.
Then DOH-Sarasota offered the following websites for more information about red tide:
- DOH-Sarasota weekly sample results are posted at www.ourgulfenvironment.net.
- FWC’s red tide updates on red tide may be found at https://myfwc.com/research/redtide/statewide/, including a sampling map that is updated daily.
- Current beach conditions may be checked on Mote Marine Laboratory’s website, https://visitbeaches.org/.