Red tide has been affecting the entire South Padre Island coast and beachgoers are particularly at risk of health problems caused by the said algal bloom.

According to ecologists from the Texas Parks and Wildlife, red tide (Karenia brevis) occurs when algae are subjected to rapidly reproduce and subsequently release reddish or brownish hazardous agents that can cause fish kills. When waves become so strong, the so-called "aerosol effect" may transpire, causing the toxins to be emitted in the air. This particular property of red tide is what makes it dangerous to the health of humans.

One of the most common health threat that red tide may impose is food poisoning. When individuals eat shellfish contaminated with red tide, clinical problems such as abdominal cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and headache among many others may result. Red tide may also cause people to have difficulty of breathing, coughing, sneezing, irritations and itchy eyes.

"I just hope that the wind remains west-northwest." said Tony Reisinger, an agent from Texas AgriLife. As the wind seems to exhibit favorable directions, the water droplets are drove back offshore instead of onto the island. Although the health threats of red tide are quite given, he said that aerosol effect is generally tame in the recent red tide occurrence.

Now, authorities are recommending the public to wear particle filter masks to protect themselves against the aerosol effect. Aerosol is a water droplet and by wearing these protective gear, the droplets remain in the masks, rather than travel all the way to the respiratory tract. Reisinger added that although this device may not be flawless in terms of giving protection, these are the public's best bet in preventing aerosols.

Majority of people who acquire irritations due to red tide may improve their signs and symptoms by taking over-the-counter anti-histamines. Clinical manifestations are typically temporary but if it persist, consulting a medical professional should be done.

Experts are particularly advising individuals with existing respiratory conditions such as asthma to not go places with red tide.

Aside from humans, red tide may also be detrimental for animals. Algal bloom is is toxic to the neurological system of marine animals and may cause paralysis. The substance may enter through the gills of fish and gather in its organs.

As per the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, the places where concentrations of red tide have been detected include Port O'Connor, Corpus Christi Bay, Port Aransas, Pelican Island, Lower Laguna Madrea and the Brazos Santiago Pass.

Photo: Terry Ross | Flickr

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