Toxic algae killed three dogs in Wilmington, experts say it can happen in SC

Toxic algae killed three dogs in Wilmington, experts say it can happen in SC

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The same bacteria that killed three dogs playing in a Wilmington, North Carolina pond last Thursday can be found in South Carolina.

"These kind of bacteria are all over in South Carolina, and you just have to be careful when you go to a place you’ve never been to before,” said John Ferry, University of South Carolina Chemistry and Biochemistry professor. “Any water body can support the growth of these kinds of organisms,” said Ferry.

Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, live in a lot of fresh bodies of water, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. These algae can release toxins that can affect humans and animals.

"They like warm water and they like nutrients,” Richard Stumpf of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration said. He said the algae feed off nitrogen and phosphorus often found in fertilizer, runoff from roads, and septic tanks.

While dogs are most at risk because they typically swim with their mouths open, people can be as well.

Dogs can experience vomiting, difficulty breathing, or even liver failure- leading to death. If someone ingests blue-green algae from the water or by eating something that has been infected, they can experience breathing issues, rashes, and stomach and liver issues, according to the Center for Disease Control and Environmental Protection Agency.

However, while experts agree it’s prominent across the U.S., they couldn’t confirm how frequently or where exactly it grows.

“In this state, we tend to monitor things that are already regulated. Most states monitor things that are regulated, so things that we consider sort of emerging problems tend to go unnoticed until the law catches up, or unwatched until the law catches up,” said Ferry.

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