Florida’s deadly red tide

Report Date: March 10, 2013

Warning of massive spread of algae blooms that kill fish and cause respiratory problems

  • Red tide caused by bloom of microscopic ocean organisms
  • Can kill marine life and when airborne, cause irritation in lungs, skin, and eyes and is especially dangerous for those with lung conditions

The southwestern coast of Florida is on alert for a rare and potentially dangerous red tide today and tomorrow, officials said.

The red tide, which is a phenomenon caused by massive algae blooms that create harmful chemicals and can cause respiratory problems.

It can be especially damaging to people suffering from chronic asthma, bronchitis, or emphysema.

According to the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, a bloom of Karenia brevis was spotted along the shorelines of Tampa.

The Tampa branch of the National Weather Service issued a warning Tuesday saying that several residents from Sarasota to Charlotte complained of breathing issues resulting from the bloom.

There have also been reports of fish being killed in the harmful red tide.

In all southwestern counties, the warnings are in effect until later today, and could be extended.

The microorganism Karenia brevis can only be seen with a microscope. While it is always present in the Gulf in negligible amounts, large blooms turn the sea a reddish brown color.

The toxins are harmful to both land and marine life. It can kill fish and other aquatic animals, and when they become airborne, cause irritation in the lungs.

Even for those who don’t suffer from a respiratory condition feel the red tide’s effects. Humans near the bloom may experience coughing, sneezing, itchy skin, and teary eyes.

According to Mote Marine Laboratory, the blooms can form out in the open ocean, up to 50 miles off shore, to the intercoastal waters and beaches of Florida.

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