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What's the risk of coming into contact with algae? Iowa DNR explains

A water patrol officer with Iowa DNR describes the risk associated with someone touching or ingesting algae.

POLK CITY, Iowa — '"We recommend visitors avoid swimming at this time," is the message the Army Corps of Engineers posted on their Facebook page after a water quality test indicated an increase in algae at Saylorville Lake. 

To warn the public about this risk even more, there are signs posted near the entrance of the water with the words "swimming is strongly discouraged," printed near the bottom of the sign.

Even though the signs are posted, some people were still swimming in the water.

"Why not? It's a beautiful day," Nathan Warren, a lake visitor said. "I grew up around Lake Red Rock and it never scared me once."

Warren was not alone in taking a dip in the water, with lots of other people swimming in the lake.

However, there were some people on the sand who told Local 5 they were avoiding going in the water because of the signs being posted. 

Ryan Wilcox, a water patrol officer with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said this is the time of year when the algae appear because the water is over 75 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes for a good breeding ground. 

Wilcox also noted the algae is usually found by the shorelines or near boat slips. 

He also said the algae is most dangerous when it's found in a big cluster, and if some of it touches the skin or gets in the mouth. 

"It can cause a rash on people, especially little kids and it can also cause if you ingest the water, it can also cause you to have a cough, a sore throat vomiting,... diarrhea," Wilcox said.

The water patrol officer also noted algae is also harmful to animals.

 "You kind of want to keep them back away from drinking that water that looks like blue-green algae," Wilcox said. "Also they can lick their coats which can get them sick as well because they lick their fur, and it has algae on it."

The water quality tests at Sayloville are performed weekly, which means the results are always changing. 

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