MELBOURNE, Fla. - A reddish algae left dead fish washing ashore -- and a nauseating odor wafting -- along Riverside Drive in Melbourne on Monday.
As biologists test the Indian River Lagoon, health officials say people with respiratory or other health conditions should avoid the algae-infested areas, or eating seafood caught there.
Diane Barile, a retired biologist who taught at Florida Tech and lives along Riverside Drive, just north of U.S. 192, wasn't taking any chances.
"I'm closing all the windows," Barile told Local 6 News partner Florida Today . "I'm just not going outside."
The lagoon took on a coppery reddish hue near Barile's house, where large dead mullet washed ashore in the brisk wind.
"It's like a red line," Barile said of the discolored water.
She also said she spotted some dolphins that seemed to be in a frenzy, as if affected by the algae.
Recent lagoon water tests have not found Karenia brevis, the algae species most commonly referred to as red tide. That algae hasn't popped up in Brevard since 2007.
But other algae that similarly discolor the water have been blooming. State wildlife officials for weeks have reported patchy algae blooms in the lagoon. Among them is a reddish algae called Pyrodinium bahamense, a brown algae named Aureoumbra lagunensis — also referred to as brown tide — and a yellowish-brown algae called Pseudo-nitzschia.
State wildlife officials gathered water and fish samples to try to identify the main culprit in the fish kills and the respiratory issues Barile reported to health officials.
Meanwhile, people concerned about health effects of any algae bloom should call the Florida Poison Information Center, state health officials said.
"You should not go close to it if you are sensitive," said Brevard County Health Department Director Heidar Heshmati. "Most of them (algae blooms), they may have neurotoxin."
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