HUNTINGTON, WV. The Cabell-Huntington Health Department is coordinating efforts with West Virginia Bureau of Public Health regarding the blue green algae on the Ohio River. Monitoring of the Ohio River is ongoing between agencies in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia in coordination with the Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO). Updated information will be provided on Kentucky’s Naturally Connected blog, West Virginia Public Health Department, and ORSANCO’s website:

Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae occurs naturally in the environment and is a vital part of the ecosystem.  A HAB occurs when there is excessive growth of toxin-producing cyanobacteria. Abundant nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen), sunny conditions, warm temperatures and low-flow or low-water conditions can contribute to high concentrations of cyanobacteria. These blooms can be irritating to skin and toxins may affect the liver and nervous system if consumed.

HABs may appear as oily slicks of opaque, bright-green paint, but closer inspection often reveals a grainy, sawdust-like appearance. The color of the algae may also appear red or brown. If you see algae that resemble underwater moss or stringy mats, it is likely green algae, which do not produce toxins.

Citizens are advised to be alert to the possible occurrence of HABs in waters where they recreate.

Citizens should avoid water that:

  • Looks like spilled paint
  • Has surface scums, mats or films
  • Is discolored or has colored streaks
  • Has green globs floating below the surface.

The following guidelines are recommended to avoid exposure to HABs:

  • Direct contact with affected water, including swimming, wading, fishing, paddling, diving and water skiing may result in symptoms. Avoid swallowing river or lake water.
  • People who are prone to respiratory allergies or asthma should avoid areas with HABs. Children may be particularly sensitive.
  • If contact has been made with water containing blue-green algae, wash off with fresh water. In some cases, skin irritation will appear after prolonged exposure. If symptoms persist, consult your local health care provider.
  • Fish fillets (not organs) may be consumed after the fillets have been rinsed in clean, non-lake water.
  • Prevent pets and livestock from coming into contact or ingesting water containing harmful algal blooms.

If you are concerned that you have symptoms that are a result of exposure to HABs please see your doctor and call your local health department.

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Contact: Elizabeth A. Ayers, MS

Director of Health & Wellness/Public Information Officer

Cabell-Huntington Health Department

Office (304) 523-6483 x 258

Fax (304) 523-6482


Blue Green Algae on the Ohio River press release 9-4-15