For weeks now—predating Hurricane Michael—a toxic “red tide” has been plaguing communities in the Florida panhandle. Schools are canceling some outdoor activities, and classrooms are emptying as urgent care centers are filling up all over Brevard County and beyond. Environmentalists and public health officials in the area say they have no reason to think it’s going to abate any time soon. Until it does, they expect to continue seeing scores of dead fish wash ashore and people complaining of a burning sensation in their eyes and throat. Symptoms are more severe in patients with asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis, and other chronic issues. Symptoms also last longer in those groups—4 to 5 days, compared with less than a day in people who are otherwise healthy. Atlantis Urgent Care in Harbour Beach, FL told WOFL-TV they’ve seen a 15%─20% in overall patient volume since the red tide first appeared. Red tides occur when there’s an overgrowth of an algae called Karenia brevis. It produces a neurotoxin that can be deadly to sea creatures, but only irritating to most humans. It starts miles out in the ocean and is brought ashore when tide conditions are right.
Be Prepared: There’s No End in Sight for the Toxic Tide Sickening Floridians