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Blue-green algae prompts health advisory for Lake Billy Chinook

Blue-green algae detected at Lake Billy Chinook (Photo from the Oregon Health Authority)

A health advisory has been issued for portions of Lake Billy Chinook in Jefferson Country after high toxin levels from blue-green algae were found in the water.

The boundaries for the health advisory are:

  • The Metolius River arm - from Perry South Campground to the northern tip of Chinook Island
  • The Deschutes River arm - all areas in and around Cove Palisades State Park, the day use areas and boat docks
  • The Crooked River arm - all areas in and around the Jefferson County day use area past Cove Palisades Resort and Marina to the confluence of the Deschutes River arm

Water monitoring confirmed the presence of the toxic algae in the lake. These toxin concentrations can be harmful to humans and animals.

People should avoid swallowing water while swimming or inhaling water droplets as a result of 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, according to health officials.

Drinking water directly from these areas of Lake Billy Chinook at this time is especially dangerous.

Oregon public health officials want to warn campers and visitors that toxins cannot be removed by boiling, filtering or treating water with filters.

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

Description of toxic symptoms from the Oregon Health Authority:

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 these areas of Lake Billy Chinook for recreation activities should take special precautions to keep them from drinking from or swimming in these areas.

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

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