A health advisory has been issued for Magic Reservoir after the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality tested the water and found unhealthy levels of a harmful algal bloom. The bloom, made up of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, was detected after a family reported that they had been swimming in the reservoir in southern Blaine County and all got skin rashes.

DEQ Surface Water Quality Manager Sean Woodhead said the rash could not be clearly linked to the cyanobacteria but the call prompted the department to test toxin levels and eventually led the South Central Public Health District to issue a health advisory on Aug. 9.

The Health District is urging the public to avoid swimming or drinking the water at the reservoir and to not allow pets or livestock to be exposed to the water or to eat the dried algae on the banks of the reservoir, as they are toxic to humans and animals. For fish caught from the reservoir, the Health District advises people to remove all fat, skin and organs before cooking the fish and to wash their hands thoroughly after handling.

Pets exposed to the toxins would likely start showing symptoms of sickness such as diarrhea soon after being exposed and should be taken to a veterinarian immediately if the owner suspects exposure to the blue-green algae, which Woodhead said is appetizing to dogs.

Woodhead said the algae is a natural occurrence throughout the world and flourishes in warmer temperatures when there are a lot of nutrients in the water. It is unclear how the substantial snowpack and cooler wet spring played into the current unhealthy levels, Woodhead said, but it is not uncommon in the area.

Health advisories have also been issued for Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir and for Mormon Reservoir.

For more information on harmful algal blooms, visit deq.idaho.gov.

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