Red Tide


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Red Tide

October 15, 2014


What is Red Tide?

Red Tide occurs when algae in the water rapidly divide and release toxins. In our area, these algae is called Karenia brevis. Usually, these algae is harmless and are an important part of the ecosystem. The problem occurs when the algae rapidly divides, throwing the ecosystem “out of balance”. The official terminology for this is “harmful algal bloom” or HAB for short.


What causes Red Tide?

There is a great deal of controversy regarding the cause of HAB. The current information from Fish and Wildlife Research Institute states that it is a natural phenomenon. There are others; however who have proposed that pollution runoff is the cause of HAB.


What are some of the problems that Red Tide can cause?

Of course, when local marine life ingests the toxin, there can be a large number of deaths of the marine life.


Can Red Tide affect my health?

Yes, Red Tide can affect one’s health in two major ways. One is if you eat seafood that has itself ingested a large amount of the HAB toxin. This can lead to a form of food poisoning called Neurotoxic shellfish poisoning. This causes both gastrointestinal symptoms as well as neurologic problems such as numbness, tingling and difficulty walking. However, these problems rarely lead to death.


Can Red Tide cause health problems if I don’t eat contaminated fish?

When the toxin becomes airborne, it can cause respiratory problems such as itching, burning eyes, runny nose and difficulty breathing


Who is at greater risk for breathing problems with Red Tide?

People with underlying respiratory problems are at greater risk for serious health problems from HAB. If you have asthma, allergies, COPD or other respiratory disease, you should be particularly careful.


What should I do to protect myself from Red Tide?

HAB is difficult to predict but there are ongoing efforts to create prediction systems. Until then, you should monitor the occurrence of HAB. When HAB is occurring, limit your outdoor exposure, especially at the coastline. If necessary, wear a mask or scarf over your mouth and nose. If you start having problems, see your doctor who may be able to help you with medication or other treatments.


Where can I get more information?

There are many sources of information on Red Tide on the Internet. For more information, go to and click on the “Red Tide” button for links to some other helpful websites. For a good summary, you may also go to



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