OWYHEE COUNTY — Health officials are urging people, as well as their pets and livestock, to avoid water at C.J. Strike Reservoir in Owyhee County.

According to a news release from Southwest District Health, high levels of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, is showing up at the Cottonwood Park and Campground. People are advised to stay out of the water near the recreation area, which is located at the Bruneau delta on the south side of the reservoir.

The health advisory states that the high counts of cyanobateria can create a Harmful Algal Bloom, which can release harmful toxins.

Cyanobacteria occur naturally and blooms occur in waters with high levels of nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, states the release.

“Whenever you are recreating in any kind of surface water, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings, whether or not there is an advisory in place,” said Chase Cusack, a Watershed Coordinator with Idaho’s DEQ Boise regional office in the release. “While harmful algal blooms aren’t always obvious to the eye, people can look for things like a green or blue-green layer on top of the water that might look like paint, or thick mats, especially along the shoreline. If you suspect a harmful algal bloom, you should report it to the DEQ.”

Sometimes the areas can appear white or brown in color and look like scum with an unpleasant odor or stench, it states.

In addition to staying out of the water, the water should not be consumed by people, pets or livestock, even if it is boiled, as that does not remove the toxins. Furthermore, any fish caught should be cleaned and rinsed with clean water, and only the fillet portion should be eaten. Anyone (or any pet) coming in contact with affected water, should wash it with clean water as soon as possible.

Symptoms of exposure include flu-like symptoms, as well as skin irritation, allergic responses, liver damage or neurotoxic reactions.

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