A health advisory prompted by high algae levels found in Willow Lake, located 24 miles east of Medford, was issued today by Oregon Public Health and the Jackson County Health Department.
Water monitoring has confirmed the presence of blue-green algae that can produce toxins harmful to humans and animals. These algae levels are likely to be associated with dangerous toxin concentrations in the water, according to World Health Organization guidelines.
People and animals should avoid swallowing or inhaling water droplets and skin contact with the water.
Drinking water from Willow Lake is especially dangerous. Public health officials advise campers and other lake visitors that toxins cannot be removed by boiling, filtering or treating the water with camping-style filters.
People who draw in-home water directly from Willow Lake are advised to use an alternative water source because private treatment systems are not proven effective in removing algae toxins. However, public drinking water systems can reduce algae toxins through proper filtration and disinfection. If people on public water systems have questions about treatment and testing, they should contact their water supplier.
Public health officials recommend that people who choose to eat fish from waters where algae blooms are present should remove all fat, skin and organs before cooking the fish because toxins are more likely to collect in these tissues.
Additionally, health officials advise that people should not eat crayfish or freshwater shellfish harvested from Willow Lake while this advisory is in effect.
Exposure to toxins can produce symptoms of numbness, tingling and dizziness that can lead to difficulty breathing or heart problems and require immediate medical attention. Symptoms of skin irritation, weakness, diarrhea, nausea, cramps and fainting should also receive medical attention if they persist or worsen. Children and pets are particularly susceptible.
State officials advise that the status of a harmful algae bloom is subject to change. For the most recent information on advisories, please visit www.healthoregon.org/hab or call 877-290-6767.
The public will be advised when this algae concern no longer exists.
With proper precautions to avoid water contact, people are encouraged to visit Willow Lake and enjoy activities such as camping, hiking, biking, picnicking, catch-and-release fishing and bird watching. Boating is safe as long as speeds do not create excessive water spray, which could lead to inhalation risk.
For local information contact Steve Lambert, Jackson County Parks program manager, at 541-774-6303.