Red tide report

 A bloom of Karenia brevis, the Florida red tide organism, persists alongshore of southwest Florida, with the highest concentrations detected so far this week alongshore of Charlotte County and offshore of Lee County.  Very low to medium concentrations were also detected alongshore of Sarasota County and very low to low concentrations were detected in the Pine Island Sound system (Lee County). Fish kills have been reported in the affected areas.

The Florida red tide organism was identified in 1947, but anecdotal reports of the effects of red tide in the Gulf of Mexico date back to the 1530s. Florida red tides occur in the Gulf of Mexico almost every year, generally in the late summer or early fall. They are most common off the central and southwestern coasts of Florida between Clearwater and Sanibel Island, but they may occur anywhere in the gulf. They also occur, but are less common, along the southeastern Atlantic coast as far north as North Carolina. Most blooms last three to five months and may affect hundreds of square miles. Occasionally, however, blooms continue sporadically for as long as 18 months and may affect thousands of square miles. Red tides can kill fish, birds, and marine mammals; cause health problems for humans; and adversely affect local economies.

Red tide may also cause health problems in humans. The toxins accumulate in shellfish that are filter-feeders, such as oysters, clams, and coquinas, and may reach levels capable of causing neurotoxic shellfish poisoning (NSP) when ingested. NSP is a temporary illness characterized by gastrointestinal and neurological distress. Symptoms include nausea and diarrhea; dizziness; muscular aches; and tingling and numbness in the tongue, lips, throat, and extremities. Symptoms of NSP usually appear within a few hours of eating contaminated shellfish and disappear within a few days.




Brevetoxins can also irritate eyes and respiratory systems when the toxins become airborne in sea spray; the irritation disappears once a person is no longer exposed. Other public health effects caused by red tides include puncture wounds from spines when beaches are littered with dead fish and, rarely, contact dermatitis from exposure to brevetoxins in seawater.

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