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Recreational use health advisory issued for Odell Lake southeast of Eugene

Odell Lake (FILE photo/Gary Leaming)

LANE COUNTY, Ore. -- The Oregon Health Authority issued a recreational use health advisory Friday for Odell Lake due to the presence of a cyanobacteria (harmful algae) bloom and the toxins they produce.

Odell Lake is located 75 miles southeast of Eugene off Highway 58 in Klamath County.

Water monitoring has confirmed the presence of cyanobacteria and the toxins they produce in Odell Lake. The cyanotoxin concentrations found can be harmful to humans and animals.

People should avoid swimming and high-speed water activities such as water skiing or power boating in areas 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 Odell Lake at this time 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.

People who draw in-home water directly from Odell Lake are advised to use an alternate water source because private treatment systems are not proven effective for removing algae toxins. If community members have questions about water available at nearby campgrounds, they should contact campground management.

OHA public health officials recommend that those who choose to eat fish from waters where cyanobacteria 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 Odell Lake and that Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations do not allow the harvest of these shellfish from freshwater sources. Crayfish muscle can be eaten, but internal organs and liquid fat should be discarded.

Exposure to toxins 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 Odell Lake for recreation activities should take special precautions to keep them from drinking from or swimming in the water body.

It’s possible cyanotoxins can still exist in clear water. Sometimes cyanobacteria can move into another area, making water that once looked foamy, scummy or discolored now look clear. However, when a bloom dies elsewhere in the water body, it can release toxins that may reach into the clear water. There also are species of cyanobacteria that anchor themselves at the bottom of a water body, live in the sediment, or can grow on aquatic plants and release toxins into clear water near the surface. OHA relies on laboratory tests of water samples to determine when cyanotoxins are no longer present to lift health advisories.

"With proper precautions to avoid water contact, people are encouraged to visit Odell Lake and enjoy activities such as fishing, camping, hiking, biking, picnicking, and bird watching," officials said. "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 recreational use 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 http://www.healthoregon.org/hab and select “algae bloom advisories,” or call the Oregon Public Health Division toll-free information line at 877-290-6767.

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