A possible red tide outbreak, as yet unconfirmed by health
officials, has county officials concerned.
St. George Island resident Bruce Graham told county commissioners
Tuesday morning that he and his wife had experienced respiratory distress on
the island, which prompted them to sees medical care at Weems Memorial
Stemming from the organism Karenia brevis, red tide
is the common name for a harmful algal bloom that if it gets out of
control can kill fish, sea turtles and manatees. The decomposition of marine
life can deplete oxygen levels in the water. Humans can be affected when they
ingest improperly harvested shellfish, breathe in aerosolized toxins, or in some
cases make skin contact.
While a patchy bloom of red tide can be common along the
Gulf Coast, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, which issues a weekly
report every Friday on red tide, indicated on Oct. 1 that K. brevis was
observed at background to medium concentrations offshore of Okaloosa County,
very low and medium concentrations in Walton, and very low concentrations in
Bay and Gulf counties. No mention was made of Franklin County.
Sarah Quaranta, director of the Florida Department of Health
for both Gulf and Franklin counties, told commissioners she is staying in communication
with the state aquatic toxins consultant.
We are aware that adjacent counties have come back with
samples, she said. I know FWC has been watching blooms by satellite, and it
does show high concentrations offshore.
We are currently awaiting confirmatory sampling, Quaranta
said. We are aware the county has been receiving calls about fish kills and respiratory
She said the health department will send out a health alert
if warranted. Some people may have mild or short-lived respiratory symptoms,” she said. “With others, the breathing problem may be more severe. It will go away when the
person leaves the area or goes indoors.
Quaranta reminded visitors not to swim around dead fish, not
to eat them or affected molluscan shellfish, and to keep pets away from the water.
She said people with concerns or questions should call the
health department at 653-2111.