A toxic algae blamed for the deaths of multiple dogs across the U.S. this summer has been detected in three New York City parks, prompting a warning to dog owners to keep their pets out of the water.
Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, grows on the surface of water and can cause rashes, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting in humans. It can be fatal among dogs within hours or days of ingestion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Such harmful algal blooms (HABs) were detected in recent weeks in Central Park’s Harlem Meer and Turtle Pond as well as a pond in Morningside Park in Upper Manhattan. In Brooklyn, high levels of the toxic blooms have also been found in Prospect Park Lake, which features a popular dog beach.
“It is important to try to avoid contact with any algae,” Meghan Lalor, a spokeswoman from the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, said in a statement obtained by The New York Times. “Keep pets on leashes and do not allow them to enter or drink from lakes and ponds, unless in areas specifically designated for such activities.”
The bloom is expected to dissipate once the water’s chemical balance is restored.
The toxins made news in July after they forced the closure of all of Mississippi’s public beaches. Earlier this month, it was reported that three dogs died within hours of swimming in a pond infested with the bacteria in Wilmington, North Carolina. There have been similar reports in Texas, Georgia and Vermont.
HABs typically occur in nutrient-rich waters, particularly during hot, calm weather, according to New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC).
The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation advises the public to assume that they are seeing blue-green algae if water looks like pea soup, or green, blue or red paint. If exposed to the bacteria, it’s advised to rinse with clean water and seek medical attention if experiencing symptoms that include skin, eye or throat irritation, breathing difficulties, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, headache or fever.
“Because it is hard to tell a HAB from non-harmful algal blooms, it is best to avoid swimming, boating, otherwise recreating in, or drinking water with a bloom,” advises the NYSDEC.