Gulf of Mexico
Florida red tide. (FDEP)

FL - Red tide has overtaken much of Florida's southwest coast. See the hot spots. Orlando Mayorquin

Dead fish are washing up on the Southwest Florida coast thanks to a toxic algae known as red tide that can pose a risk to humans.

The algae, which is known formally as the single-cell Karenia brevis, has concentrated near Tampa Bay and neighboring communities.

Scientists have found the algae at rates ranging from 10,000 cells per liter to more than 1 million cells per liter – levels that result in fish kills and breathing difficulties in exposed humans, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation.

Red tides produce a toxin called brevetoxin that can make humans ill if they breathe the toxin in through sea spray or get wet with contaminated water.

The illness can cause a range of symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including:

  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Eye, skin, and throat irritation
  • Asthma attacks

Recent samples have also detected red tide at “background levels” on the eastern coast of the state.

Red tides are a naturally occurring phenomenon that have been observed in the Gulf of Mexico since the 1800s. They begin to form on the coast beginning in the fall, and typically clear up by Spring.

Here’s where you can find red tide in Florida.

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