Health department says red tide found off northern Captiva coast

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Florida Department of Health in Lee County. Credit: WINK News.

Florida Department of Health in Lee County is alerting the public Monday to a red tide bloom off the coast of the northern portion of Captiva. DOH-Lee reports the bloom was specifically found near South Seas Plantation Beach Access.

According to DOH-Lee, Some people could have mild and short-lived respiratory symptoms such as eye, nose and throat irritation similar to cold symptoms. Some with breathing problems such as asthma might experience more severe symptoms.

“Beachgoers and anybody that lives around the beach should keep up with reports of red tide just in case they are susceptible,” said Richard Bartleson, a research scientist with Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.

We joined Bartleson as he reeled in a red tide sample from Gulfside City Park Beach on Sanibel Island.

“We had a really dense red tide out here yesterday, and it looks like that has at least calmed down or moved, gotten blown to the side or washed out with the tide,” Bartleson said.

That doesn’t mean it’s fallen off his radar. His sample had a red tide cell count of 200,000, which indicates a medium concentration.

“We still have plenty here to cause respiratory irritation and cause environmental problems for the benthos, the clams and the worms and such and the wildlife,” Bartleson explained.

Red tide can be patchy. If you start to experience any coughing or respiratory irritation, that doesn’t mean you’re going to have the same effects up and down the coast.

Usually, symptoms go away when a person leaves the area or goes indoors. Health officials recommend, for people experiencing these symptoms, stay away from beach areas or go into an air conditioned space.

If symptoms don’t subside, the health department recommends you contact your health care provider for evaluation.

DOH-Lee Tips

  • Do not swim around dead fish at this location
  • If you have chronic respiratory problems, be careful and consider staying away from this location as red tide can affect your breathing
  • Do not harvest or eat molluscan shellfish and distressed or dead fish from this location. If fish are healthy, rinse fillets with tap or bottled water and throw out the guts
  • Keep pets and livestock away from water, sea foam and dead sea life
  • Residents living in beach areas are advised to close windows and run the air conditioner (making sure that the A/C filter is maintained according to manufacturer’s specifications)
  • If outdoors, residents may choose to wear paper filter masks, especially if onshore winds are blowing

Florida Poison Control Centers have a toll-free 24/7 Hotline for reporting of illnesses, including health effects from exposure to red tide at 800-222-1222.

Visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife research website for additional information on locations where red tide has been found.

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