Health agencies taking action in response to toxic algae test

Health agencies taking action in response to toxic algae test

"We’re concerned that’s more toxic than we expected."

That was the reaction from Dr. Michael Romano, Chairman of both the Department of Internal Medicine and the Infection Control Committee for Martin Health System, after the Florida Department of Environmental Protection released test results from a sample of algae from the St. Lucie Lock and Dam.

The sample taken shows 154.38 parts per billion of microcystin toxins. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), that number is 15 times higher than what's considered hazardous.

Romano said Martin Health Systems is prepared for whatever comes their way, but he doesn't like dealing with the unknown.

"I would like to be able to refer to medical literature and say if it’s this toxic, then this is what we can expect, but those studies haven’t been done," he said. "But that’s what we’re calling for."

That's why they're starting to monitor patients coming in with algae exposure. So far, they have seen an increase in symptoms mainly of skin and eye irritations, and some with breathing and stomach issues.

"Everything we’ve seen, we’ve been able to treat in the emergency room and send home feeling better," Romano said.

Romano is urging people to avoid the water and so are officials at the Martin County Health Department. In fact, after the new results were released, they issued a new advisory.

“It’s just an emphasis of avoiding exposure or minimizing exposure to algal blooms in the county, but especially in that area," said Benjamin Juengst, Health Manager at the Florida Health Department of Martin County.

Track algae testing in Florida through an interactive map. Call (855) 305-3903 to report an algal bloom, or go online.