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Red tide update for Volusia County

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Posted On: October 23, 2018

On Monday, Oct. 22 at 6:30 p.m., the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) confirmed background concentrations of Karenia brevis, at a level of 667 cells/liter, were detected at Mary McLeod Bethune Beach Park from a sample taken by FWC personnel on Oct. 17.  This is an extremely low concentration, less than 1,000 cells/liter which is officially classified by FWC as "not present/background." These levels have no anticipated effects. 

If levels reach "very low" levels (> 1,000 - 10,000 cells/liter) there could be possible respiratory irritation; shellfish harvesting closures begin at 5,000 cells/liter or greater.  For perspective, levels in Florida’s most affected areas reached more than 1 million cells/liter. See attached chart.

Upon the request of FWC, staff from Volusia County’s Environmental Management and Beach Safety divisions assisted FWC in collecting water samples at three sites: Hiles Boulevard and Crawford Road in New Smyrna Beach and Granada Boulevard in Ormond Beach.  These samples will be shipped to FWC for testing. Currently, FWC has requested that samples be collected weekly.

The FWC’s statewide red tide map is being updated daily at www.myfwc.com/research/redtide/statewide. To report a fish kill, call 800-636-0511.

Red tide is produced by the microscopic algae Karenia brevis, which occurs naturally in the salt waters of the Gulf of Mexico. When the algae grow quickly, they can create blooms that make the ocean appear red or brown. The current red tide bloom began several weeks ago in southwest and northwest Florida and has moved up the east coast. 

Karenia brevis produces powerful neurotoxins called brevetoxins, which can kill fish and other marine organisms. Some people who swim among brevetoxins or inhale brevetoxins in the air may experience irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, as well as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. 

According to the Florida Department of Health, people in coastal areas can experience varying degrees of eye, nose, and throat irritation. When a person leaves an area with red tide, symptoms usually go away. People with severe or chronic respiratory conditions, such as asthma or chronic lung disease, are cautioned to avoid areas with active red tides.

Health officials recommend that people experiencing symptoms stay away from affected areas. If symptoms do not subside, they should contact their physician. There are no long-term health effects from being exposed to red tide.

The county’s Coastal and Beach Safety divisions will clear the beaches daily of biological debris. There are currently no beach closures within Volusia County; however, staff will be posting cautionary signage informing the public about the potential presence of red tide. Volusia County and the FWC advisebeachgoers to use their best judgment when visiting a beach impacted by red tide. 

Red tide can last for a few weeks to longer than a year, but is not known to persist on the East Coast. Sunlight, nutrients, salinity, and the speed and direction of wind and water currents play a role. County officials anticipate that the dynamic conditions of the East Coast will limit the presence, persistence and concentration of the organism in our near shore waters.

For health related questions, news media may contact the Florida Department of Health at newsmedia@flhealth.gov or 850-245-4111.

Red tide at a glance:

  • Not all people are susceptible to the effects of red tide. 
  • Exposure may cause coughing; sneezing; rash; and eye, throat or skin irritation. 
  • Avoid the beach if you have these symptoms or you have a respiratory condition, such as asthma.
  • Symptoms are temporary, with no long-term health effects.
  • Onshore winds and rough surf worsen the effects of red tide.
  • Red tide is caused by naturally occurring algae that can kill fish and other sea animals.
  • Do not swim near dead fish or touch them.
  • Wear shoes to prevent injuries from stepping on the bones of dead fish.
  • To report a fish kill, call 800-636-0511.
  • Red tide status updates are available at myfwc.com/research/redtide.