BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health along with the Charles River Watershed Association issued a public health advisory for the lower Charles River Basin after detecting the presence of toxic algae on Wednesday.

Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, is a potentially fatal algae bloom containing cyanotoxins. The most common symptoms of cyanotoxin contact are stomach cramps, nausea, skin rashes and eye irritation, but in large enough does, liver and neurological damage and fatalities have been known to occur. Safety officials warn against both ingesting infected water as well as coming into direct contact with it. Cyanobacteria often appears as a green scum on the water's surface, but can also look like bright green strands or green paint. The Department of Public Health sampled will take follow-up samples of the water on July 31. DPH requires at least two samples, one week apart, before the water is deemed safe.

The safety warning extends from the BU Bridge to the Museum of Science. Because the area affected is popular with dog-walkers, officials warn owners to keep their pets leashed at all times near the region and not to let them swim in the water or drink from it. Should this accidentally occur, seek veterinary help immediately as cyanotoxins are particularly hazardous to pets. People should avoid direct contact with affected water in the area including swimming, boating and fishing, stated Marc Nascarella,chief toxicologist for the Department of Public Health.

If you accidentally come into contact with affected water, officials suggest rinsing off immediately. There are currently no special treatments available for cyanotoxin illnesses, but information about the suspected cause of your illness might help your healthcare provider to manage symptoms. If you’re experiencing severe systems including vomiting, painful skin irritation, extreme stomach cramps or bloating, please contact the Massachusetts and Rhode Island Regional Center for Poison Control and Prevention by calling (800) 222-1222.

Image via Wikimedia / Christian Fischer