Red tide still a factor, but Pinellas improves

There was only one bloom concentration — defined as more than 100,000 cells per liter of water — present off Pinellas County, down from four the previous week. And that bloom was well offshore.

The red tide organism continues to linger around southwestern Florida, but there was continued good news for Pinellas County.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported that Karenia brevis, the red tide organism, was detected in 67 samples collected from on and off the southwest Florida shore the week of Jan. 4. That’s up from 39 the week before, but down from a high count of 75 in early December.

There was only one bloom concentration — defined as more than 100,000 cells per liter of water — present off Pinellas County, down from four the previous week. And that bloom was well offshore.

Low concentrations were found in one sample at the Treasure Island shore, two in the Maximo Park area and three near Fort De Soto Park. No red tide organisms beyond potential background levels were found north of Treasure Island.

Of the other 12 bloom concentrations, one was in Hillsborough, six in Manatee, four in Sarasota, and one offshore of Charlotte.

Reports of fish kills suspected to be related to red tide were received from Pinellas, Manatee, and Sarasota counties over the past week.

Respiratory irritation suspected to be related to red tide was reported via the Beach Conditions Reporting System over the past week in Pinellas (Indian Shores), Manatee (Anna Maria Beach, Anna Maria Island Rod and Reel Pier, Coquina Beach, Holmes Beach, Manatee Beach), and Sarasota (Caspersen Beach, Lido Key Beach, Longboat Key, Manasota Key Beach, Nokomis Beach, Siesta Key Beach, Turtle Beach, Venice North Jetty Beach).

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.