Susan Buckley, RN, Director, Public Health
Ira Singh, MPH, Deputy Director
Donald I. Baird, MD, Health Officer

Division of Environmental Health


Date Released: 7/29/2004
Subject: Dog Death Reported on South Fork Eel River Near Piercy
Contact: Kevin Metcalfe, Supervisor, Environmental Health Division
Phone: (707) 445-6215

The Department of Health and Human Services is reminding recreational users of the South Fork Eel River to take precautions to avoid contact with blue green algae. A dog that recently died after swimming on the South Fork of the Eel River in Mendocino County close to the mouth of Indian Creek, Piercy, may have ingested blue green algae toxins.

In the summer of 2002 three dog deaths occurred after the animals swam in areas of stagnant water in the South Fork Eel River. Two of the animals were reported to experience seizures within 5-10 minutes of exposure to the water and died soon after. In the 2002 cases, there was a significant amount of algae in the water where the dogs swam. Two of the deaths were confirmed by stomach and river water analyses to be most likely due to the ingestion of blue green algal toxins. The most recent dog death occurred on Sunday, July 25, 2004. There have been no reports of illness or other effects involving humans.

Recreational users of the South Fork Eel River and other fresh water bodies should avoid contact with all algae (“blue green algae” can be many different colors). The Department of Health and Human Services recommends the following guidelines for recreational users of all freshwater areas:

1. Keep pets out of areas containing visible concentrations of algae and do not allow them to drink river water.
2. Avoid contact with water where algae blooms are visible, particularly dense mats of algae. Do not wade or swim in this water. Do not drink, eat or handle the algae, and avoid ingesting the river water.
3. Supervise young children at all times, as they are more at risk due to their small body size.
4. Swimmers should shower and pets be rinsed with tap water immediately after bathing.
5. Use water-resistant gloves to remove unwanted algae from shorelines.
6. Ranchers should not allow livestock to drink water from contaminated rivers or streams.

Although there have been no reports of human illness in Humboldt County, people could be affected by the toxins. Pets and other animals that swim in or drink river water are most likely to be affected by blue green algae toxins. However, following the above precautions to avoid contact with algae or its toxins should prevent an illness or any adverse reaction.


Please contact the Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Environmental Health, at (707) 445-6215 or 1-800-963-9241 for further information. In Mendocino County, please contact the Mendocino County Health Division of Environmental Health at (707) 463-4466. If you have questions about treatment, call your doctor.

Fact sheets on blue green algae including information for veterinary workers are available at either county office. For further information concerning animal health, please contact the State Animal Health Branch at (707) 826-1658.


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