Cyanobacteria detected at Pärnu beach, swimming not advised

Pärnu beach. The city is Estonia's
Pärnu beach. The city is Estonia's "summer capital" Source: Mailiis Ollino/Pärnu Postimees/Scanpix

Pärnu City Government is recommending that beach-goers do not swim on the city's beaches after cyanobacteria algae was found in a water sample taken on Monday.

Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, is a bacteria that flourishes in warm nutrient-rich water 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 ears and eyes, particularly in children and adults with allergies, to diarrhoea, vomiting and fever in more severe cases.

Andres Jaanus, researcher at the University of Tartu Maritime Institute, told the city government on Wednesday that two species of the algae, Aphanizomenon flosaquae and Nodularia spumigena, were found in the sample. The latter is potentially toxic and can cause serious health damage if there is prolonged exposure and ingestion. 

In a statement issued by Pärnu City Government, Janus said swimming when the algae is present in the water is not recommended. He added that if you're standing in calm water, around one-meter deep, and cannot see your toes, then it may well be present in the sea around you.

When washed ashore, the cyanobacteria is recognizable as a blue-green thin layer on sand or rocks.

Due to the discovery of the algae, the Coast Guard put up a red flag on the central beach at Pärnu on Wednesday, informing visitors about the dangers of bathing. 

Children and people with weaker health should be especially attentive. On Wednesday all Estonian beaches will be fitted with warning signs in Estonian and English, algae samples will also be taken from other beaches in the county and Valgeranna beach.

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: Helen Wright

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