Red tide levels continue to fall

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported lower concentrations of red tide along southeastern Pinellas County.

The news on red tide continues to improve, particularly in Pinellas County.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, was detected in 39 samples collected from the shoreline and offshore of southwest Florida the week of Dec. 29.

That’s down from 51 samples the week before and 75 in early December.

Bloom concentrations, or those with more than 100,000 cells per liter of water, were present in 11 samples. That’s down from 20 last week and 30 earlier in December.

Four of the bloom concentrations were found in Pinellas. That’s down from 16 the week before. Four bloom concentrations were also found in Manatee County, and three in Sarasota County.

In Pinellas, FWC’s current-status map as of Dec. 30 showed positive tests only in the Maximo Park and Fort De Soto Park areas.

Red tide has not been observed in northwest Florida or the state’s east coast.

Reports of fish kills suspected to be related to red tide were received over the past week from Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, and Collier counties. Respiratory irritation suspected to be related to red tide was reported via the Beach Conditions Reporting System over the past week in Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties.

The Florida Department of Health-Pinellas County said that some people may have mild and short-lived respiratory symptoms such as eye, nose, and throat irritation similar to cold symptoms. Some individuals with breathing problems such as asthma might experience more severe symptoms. Usually, symptoms go away when a person leaves the area or goes indoors.

Health officials recommend that people experiencing these symptoms stay away from beach areas or go into an air-conditioned space. If symptoms do not subside, contact your health care provider for evaluation.

DOH-Pinellas recommends these steps:

• Do not swim around dead fish.

• If you have chronic respiratory problems, be careful and consider staying away from locations with red tide as it can affect your breathing.

• Do not harvest or eat molluscan shellfish and distressed or dead fish from affected locations. If fish are healthy, rinse fillets with tap or bottled water and throw out the guts.

• Keep pets away from water, sea foam and dead sea life.

• Residents living in affected beach areas are advised to close windows and run the air conditioner.

• If outdoors, residents may choose to wear paper filter masks, especially if onshore winds are blowing.

For recent and current information at individual beaches, visit https://visitbeaches.org/.

For information about red tide and links to other resources, visit http://pinellas.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/environmental-health/water-programs/red-tide/index.html.