Health Board: Mass blue-green algae blooms off northwest Estonian coast

Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae
Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae Source: Georg Martin/ERR

Large-scale, toxic blue-green algae blooms have been reported off the beaches of western Estonia, the Health Board (Terviseamet) says, prompting the board to urge caution when swimming.

The blue-green algae (Cyanobacteria) has been detected off the coast of Saaremaa, mainly in the shallow waters around the Sõrve peninsula and the Väinamere strait which separates the island from the mainland, and in other parts of the Lääne County coast, including around Haapsalu and the Paralepa beach.

While visible from the air, at close quarters, blue-green algae can be barely visible to the human eye, though affected water can appear cloudy.

The blue color is released during the process of decomposition of algae which is in fact dead, while swimming in water which contains algae blooms can lead to skin irritation and itching, worsening to flu-like symptoms and diarrhea if the water is swallowed.

The presence of blue-green algae is more easily detected after some time, when it can leave a residue on a beach or shoreline, and a stagnant odor can also present. In the event of members of the public even wanting to take a dip in such a spot, the board recommends avoiding doing so. Small children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable, while dog owners should keep an eye on their pets, for the same reason.

If you do find that you have taken a dip in water contaminated with blue-green algae, you should wash yourself with clean, fresh water and soap as soon as possible, the board recommends.

The problem is a regular one off Estonia's coast in summer, while the weather outlook for the next few days promises more algae in the same region, due to southwesterly winds and warm conditions.

Algae blooms may also spread to the North coast and beaches there.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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