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Algae health alert for Upper Klamath, Agency lakes


The Oregon Health Authority issued a health advisory Tuesday due to algae-caused toxins at levels that could pose a risk to human health in Upper Klamath Lake and Agency Lake, located just north of Klamath Falls along Highway 97 in Klamath County.

Continuous cold water conditions in Pelican Bay have prevented blue-green algae from growing there, so Pelican Bay is not included in this advisory, officials said.

Routine water monitoring by the U.S. Geological Survey has confirmed the presence of blue-green algae toxins. These toxins, called cyanotoxins, are present at concentrations in the water that can be harmful to humans and animals.

In areas covered by the advisory, swallowing or inhaling water droplets should be avoided. Drinking water directly from Upper Klamath or Agency lakes is especially dangerous. Skin contact with the algae can also cause rashes in individuals with sensitive skin.

Oregon Public Health officials advise campers and other recreational visitors that toxins cannot be removed by boiling, filtering or treating the water with camping-style filters.

People who draw in-home water directly from Upper Klamath or Agency lakes are advised to use an alternative water source because private treatment systems are not proven effective at removing algae toxins.

However, public drinking water systems can reduce algae toxins through proper filtration and disinfection. If people on public water systems have questions about treatment and testing, they should contact their water supplier.

Oregon health officials recommend that people who choose to eat fish from waters where algae blooms are present remove all fat, skin and organs before cooking, because toxins are more likely to collect in these tissues.

Public health officials also advise that people not eat freshwater clams or mussels from Upper Klamath or Agency lakes and that Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations do not allow the harvest of these shellfish from freshwater sources. Crayfish muscle can be eaten, but internal organs and liquid fat should be discarded.

Exposure to toxins can produce symptoms of numbness, tingling and dizziness that can lead to difficulty breathing or heart problems, and require immediate medical attention. Symptoms of skin irritation, weakness, diarrhea, nausea, cramps and fainting should also receive medical attention if they persist or worsen.

Children and pets are at increased risk for exposure because of their size and level of activity.

The public will be advised when the concern no longer exists, officials said.

With proper precautions to avoid water contact, people are encouraged to enjoy activities such as camping, hiking, biking, picnicking, fishing and bird watching. Boating is safe as long as speeds do not create excessive water spray, which could lead to inhalation risk.

For local information, contact Sara Eldridge with the USGS at 541-273-8689 extension 203. For health information or to report an illness, contact the Oregon Health Authority at 971-673-0400.

OHA maintains an updated list of all health advisories on its website. To find out if an advisory has been issued or lifted for a specific water body, visit or call the Oregon Public Health Division toll-free information line at 1-877-290-6767.

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