N.B. officials urge people to take precautions against blue-green algae contamination

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New Brunswick health officials are taking a pre-emptive approach to blue-green algae in bodies of water across the province.

“On a yearly basis, we would know that once an area has a blue-green algae bloom, it could reoccur,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria is naturally found in New Brunswick’s aquatic ecosystems, but under certain conditions the bacteria will increase and form what’s called blooms.

“They are very small — sometimes the size of two micrometers — so you wouldn’t even see them,” said post-doctoral researcher Maximilian Berthold. “But if there is an increase of nutrients for them, they tend to form blooms in water bodies.”

Not all types of blooms are harmful, however.

“The types of symptoms you would look for would be skin irritation, eye irritation, and throat irritation,” Russell said. “And, if they were to swallow the water, it would be gastro-intestinal illness that they would see.”

Last summer, necropsies confirmed three dogs died after coming in contact with blue-green algae blooms in the Moncton area.

Danielle Fougere says she hasn’t let her dog, Ben, near the water since.

“We just avoid the waterways mostly in the early spring beginning of summer, just not to run any issue,” Fougere said.

After what happened last summer, she’s not taking any chances.

VeterinarianDr. Gillian Marsh offers this caution for dog owners.

“For dogs, if they swallow enough it, can cause death within minutes to a day,” Marsh said.

She adds symptoms in dogs can include vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

“If your pet happens to get into the water, you call your vet and tell them you’re coming over immediately so they can start the decontamination process,” Marsh said.

While temperatures in the area have yet to hit peak levels for blue-green algae growth, Berthold warns it’s only a matter of time.

Marsh says there have been no confirmed cases this summer of dogs coming in contact with blue-green algae, but she wants to stress the importance that people should pay attention to water advisories and steer clear of any water that may contain the toxic blooms.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Eilish Bonang.

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