Change in wind direction could bring cyanobacteria to Estonian beaches

Cyanobacteria derive their name from their blue-green color. Picture is illustrative.
Cyanobacteria derive their name from their blue-green color. Picture is illustrative. Source: (Põhja-Tallinna linnaosa/Facebook)

While according to the latest data no cyanobacteria has been found on any of Estonia's beaches thus far this year, the Health Board is keeping an eye on the situation, as a change in wind direction could bring the toxic, illness-inducing bacteria to Estonian shores.

Natalja Šubina, an adviser at the Public Health Department of the Health Board, said that the blooming of cyanobacteria, commonly known as blue-green algae, is most intense in the open waters and southern part sof the Baltic Sea at the moment.

Satellite images also reveal major scums of algae present in the western Gulf of Finland.

"Blooming may intensify in warm and quiet weather," Šubina said. "As the scums are changeable in time and space and depend on the direction of the wind, cyanobacteria may reach beaches that are more open to winds in favorable weather."

The Health Board is monitoring the situation and will inform the owner of the beach as well as the local beach safety authority if and when cyanobacteria is identified as being present.

"We have warned the lifeguard service of G4S Eesti and advised them, in the interest of the health of beachgoers, to switch to the yellow flag on the beach when cyanobacteria is found," Šubina added.

Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, is a bacteria that flourishes in warm water rich in nutrients during periods of warm and quiet weather.

The effects from the toxic substances produced by the cyanobacteria can vary, ranging from skin rashes and irritated eears and eyes, particularly in children and adults with allergies, to diarrhea, vomiting and fever in more severe cases.

Cyanobacteria is a phylum that includes some 150 genuses and 2,000 species of bacteria. To date, some 400 species of cyanobacteria have been recorded in Estonia.

Blue-green algae is a bacteria phylum that includes approximately 150 genuses and 2,000 species. About 400 species of blue-green algae have been recorded in Estonia to date.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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