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Red tide health alerts issued for certain beaches in Lee County

Red tide health alerts were issued by Florida Department of Health in Lee County Friday at several beaches in the county heading into the weekend and during spring break.

We went to Sanibel Island, where people were not a letting red tide warnings impact their down time. We did not notice signs of red tide near the beach, and many beachgoers said they did not experience any effects either.

“I’ll start to get a tickle, itchiness in my throat, cough,” said Matthew Olson, visiting from Wisconsin. “I haven’t had that in this trip so far.”

“I don’t smell anything or feel anything like that either,” said Mike Monge from Fort Myers.

But red tide blooms are out there.

Southwest Florida red tide map as of Friday, March 19, 2021. Credit: WINK News.

The latest red tide map shows medium concentrations of red tide around Fort Myers Beach, Bonita Beach and Sanibel, with a high concentration area off Sanibel’s shore. Lee County beaches included in the alert were Lighthouse Beach Park, Lynn Hall Beach Park, Lover’s Key State Park and Bonita Springs Beach Park.

Nadine Keegan says she experienced some during the morning.

“I went for a run, and I felt a little bit of irritation in my throat, and I had to cough a couple of times, and that’s not typical,” said Keegan, who was visiting from New York. “It actually crossed my mind that there might be something going on with red tide.”

Even though there is a health alert for the beach, that’s not stopping people from going out to enjoy the sun, the surf and the waves for spring break and season, and people hope it stays that way.

“It’s definitely packed. Good number of people, traffic around the area,” Monge said. “Red tide is terrible for the economy.”

People are hoping red tide doesn’t cause a large impact in Southwest Florida and that people keep heading to the beach without having to see or feel the signs of red tide.

“If it does rise, then, it will affect local businesses and keep the crowds down,” Olson said.


Dealing with red tide

Per the health department, symptoms usually go away when someone leaves the area or goes indoors.

The Department recommends that you:

  • Do not swim around dead fish at this location
  • If you have chronic respiratory problems, be careful and consider staying away from this location as red tide can affect your breathing
  • Do not harvest or eat molluscan shellfish and distressed or dead fish from this location. If fish are healthy, rinse fillets with tap or bottled water and throw out the guts
  • Keep pets and livestock away from water, seafoam and dead sea life
  • Residents living in beach areas are advised to close windows and run the air conditioner (making sure that the A/C filter is maintained according to manufacturer’s specifications)
  • If outdoors, residents may choose to wear paper filter masks, especially if onshore winds are blowing

Florida Poison Control Centers have a toll-free 24/7 Hotline for reporting illnesses, including health effects from exposure to red tide at 1-888-232-8635.

Visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research website for additional information on the locations where red tide has been found: myfwc.com/research/redtide/statewide/.

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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