Virginia Department of Health warns of harmful algae bloom

The Pamunkey and North Anna Branches of Lake Anna in Orange, Louisa and Spotsylvania counties are experiencing a harmful algae bloom (HAB), according to a release by the Virginia Department of Health.

The public is advised to avoid contact with the lake in some areas until algae concentrations return to acceptable levels.

Some harmful algae, called cyanobacteria, can cause skin rash and gastrointestinal illnesses, such as upset stomach, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Multiple species of cyanobacteria capable of producing several toxins were detected in the August 15 and August 21 samples.

Samples screened for two toxins collected August 15 and August 21 were below levels which may pose a health risk; however, the concentration of potentially harmful algae species indicate that toxins may be present or may develop in the area.

Advisory signs have been posted at areas such as marinas and campgrounds in the area.

Algae blooms can occur when warm water and nutrients combine to make conditions favorable for algae growth. These conditions have occurred recently with the significantly warmer temperatures and sunny weather, which occurred after high amounts of rainfall over the last month.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, people should do these things to prevent illness:

  • Avoid contact with any area of the lake where water is green or an advisory sign is posted.
  • Do not allow children or pets to drink from natural bodies of water.
  • Keep children and pets out of the areas experiencing a harmful algae bloom and quickly wash them off with fresh water after coming into contact with algae.
  • If you or your animals experience symptoms after swimming in or near an algal bloom, seek medical/veterinarian care.
  • If you suspect you experienced health-related effects following exposure to a bloom, contact the Virginia Harmful Algal Bloom Hotline at 1-888-238-6154

The Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force, which includes the Virginia Department of Health, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Old Dominion Phytoplankton lab, will continue to monitor water quality in the lake.