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Oregon Health Authority issues health advisory for cyanobacteria in Metolius arm of lake.

HOLLY M. GILL - The Oregon Health Authority has issued an advisory due to the presence of harmful algae (cyanobacteria) in the Metolius arm of Lake Billy Chinook.The Oregon Health Authority issued a recreational use health advisory June 22, for areas of Lake Billy Chinook due to the presence of a cyanobacteria (harmful algae) bloom. The lake is located about 12 miles west of Madras.

Water monitoring has confirmed the presence of cyanobacteria and the toxins they produce in Perry South Cove on the Metolius arm of Lake Billy Chinook. The cyanotoxin concentrations found can be harmful to humans and animals.

The advisory extends from the cove at Perry South Campground to the southern tip of Three Rivers Island located downstream in the Metolius arm.

People should avoid swimming and high-speed water activities, such as water-skiing or power boating, in areas of the lake where blooms are identified. Although toxins are not absorbed through the skin, people who have skin sensitivities may experience a puffy red rash at the affected area.

Drinking water directly from that area of the lake is especially dangerous. OHA public health officials advise campers and other recreational visitors that toxins cannot be removed by boiling, filtering or treating water with camping-style filters.

Anyone drawing in-home water directly from the affected area is advised to use an alternative water source because private treatment systems are not proven effective for removing cyanotoxins.

However, public drinking water systems can reduce cyanotoxins through proper filtration and disinfection. If people are connected to public water systems or are on wells in the area, that water is not affected by the bloom in the lake. If community members have questions about water available at nearby campgrounds, they should contact campground management.

Oregon health officials recommend that those who choose to eat fish from waters where harmful algae blooms are present remove all fat, skin and organs before cooking, as toxins are more likely to collect in these tissues. Fillets should also be rinsed with clean water.

Public health officials also advise people to not eat freshwater clams or mussels from Lake Billy Chinook and that Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations do not allow the harvest of those shellfish from freshwater sources. Crayfish muscle can be eaten, but internal organs and liquid fat should be discarded.

Exposure to cyanotoxins can produce a variety of symptoms including numbness, tingling and dizziness that can lead to difficulty breathing or heart problems, and require immediate medical attention.

Symptoms of skin irritation, weakness, diarrhea, nausea, cramps and fainting should also receive medical attention if they persist or worsen. Children and pets are at increased risk for exposure because of their size and level of activity. People who bring their pets to that area of Lake Billy Chinook for recreation activities should take special precautions to keep them from drinking from or swimming in that area of the lake.

The advisory will be lifted when the concern no longer exists.

With proper precautions to avoid exposure to affected water, people are encouraged to visit that area of Lake Billy Chinook and enjoy activities such as fishing, camping, hiking, biking, picnicking, and bird watching. Boating is safe as long as speeds do not create excessive water spray, which could lead to inhalation risk.

For health information or to report an illness, contact the Oregon Health Authority at 971-673-0440.

OHA maintains an updated list of all health advisories on its website. To learn if an advisory has been issued or lifted for a specific water body, visit the Harmful Algae Blooms website at www.healthoregon.org/hap and select "algae bloom advisories," or call the Oregon Public Health Division toll-free information line at 877-290-6767.

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