July marks peak season for blue-green algal blooms in Iowa


A blue green algae outbreak on Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin. (Rob McLennan/Flickr)
A blue green algae outbreak on Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin. (Rob McLennan/Flickr)
Nick Fetty | July 19, 2016

While not expected to be as severe as last summer, Iowa outdoor recreation enthusiasts should be mindful of blue-green algal blooms this time of the year.

Warm July temperatures coupled with excess phosphorus that often runs off of farm fields into lakes and waterways creates the ideal breeding ground for blue-green algae. These conditions lead to the creation of microcystin toxins which can cause skin rashes and asthma-like symptoms for humans and potential fatalities for dogs, livestock, and other animals.

Officials with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources monitor state beaches and other waterways to determine if the water is safe for recreational activities. The state’s first instances of blue-green algae were reported at the end of June. Last summer, blue-green algae blooms led to a record closure of Iowa beaches. Iowa DNR officials have also recorded bacteria growth – such as E. coli – at some state beaches this summer.

Earlier this month, Florida governor Rick Scott issued a state of emergency because of harmful algal blooms on bodies of water in the Sunshine State. NASA satellites captured images of algal blooms on Lake Okeechobee in May.

Check out the Iowa DNR website for reports of blue-green algae and other bacteria at state-owned beaches. Mary Skopec with the Iowa DNR advises swimmers, boaters, others to be cautious of water that is green in color or scummy in texture.

“When in doubt, stay out,” Skopec said.

First cases of chikungunya virus acquired within US


Photo by Ramón Portellano; Flickr
Photo by Ramón Portellano; Flickr

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are reporting the first domestically acquired cases of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus.

Two infected individuals have been identified in Florida; neither had left the country recently enough to have contracted the virus elsewhere.

Chikungunya is not new to the United States; according to the CDC, the US sees an average of 28 cases per year. Until this point, however, these incidents have occurred exclusively in travelers returning from countries where the virus is common.

Symptoms of the Chikungunya virus include fevers and joint pain that usually cease within a week, although the latter can become chronic. Although no vaccine is available, the virus is very rarely fatal, and both US cases appear to be doing well.