Toxic Bacteria Dangerous To Children & Dogs Detected In Zion National Park Waterways

Toxic Bacteria Dangerous To Children & Dogs Detected In Zion National Park Waterways

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Toxic Bacteria Dangerous To Children & Dogs Detected In Zion National Park Waterways

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Heads up if you’re planning a trip to Zion National Park in southwest Utah, a toxin blamed in a dog’s death two years ago has been detected again in streams of the park. 8News Now reports a 6-month-old husky puppy named Keanna died within 20 minutes of contact with toxic algae blooms on July 3, 2020, in the Virgin River. The toxin is especially dangerous to children and dogs.

Officials are warning visitors not to drink stream water anywhere in the park under any circumstances. There is no known recreational water filtration methods effective at removing cyanotoxins. Visitors are also advised not to swim or put their head under water anywhere in the park. That includes dogs:

“Dogs are vulnerable to cyanotoxin exposure because they may bite or accidentally eat/drink material from potentially toxic algal mats.” -Park Service 

The bacteria that produce the toxin thrive in warm water. Extreme heat and a lack of rain promote the growth of the bacteria, both aspects of the ongoing drought in the Southwest.

To reiterate if you plan to visit Zion National Park in the near future don’t drink stream water or swim and keep your dog on a leash at all times.

NPS: Cyanobacteria colonies like this will grow on rocks, sticks, and sand. Note the ribbed texture in the below picture⬇⬇⬇

Zion National Park Press Release: 

Zion National Park continues to monitor monthly for the presence of harmful cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins. Zion staff take a “multiple lines of evidence” approach when using data to issue recreational advisories. Monitoring efforts have detected cyanotoxins harmful to humans and pets in the North Fork of the Virgin River, therefore, the North Fork of the Virgin River and all connected tributaries will be elevated to a Warning Advisory. A Health Watch remains in effect at La Verkin Creek and a Warning Advisory remains in effect at North Creek. During Warning and Health Watch advisories, recreators should avoid primary contact recreation such as swimming or submerging the head. Do not drink stream water anywhere in the park. Carry in water or filter directly from a spring source.

Toxin-producing cyanobacteria of the genera Microcoleus, Tychonema, and Nostoc have been found in the North Fork of the Virgin River, North Creek, and La Verkin Creek. Colonies of cyanobacteria can be yellow, tan, green, brown, or black in color. Toxins detected in Zion include anatoxin-a, nodularin, microcystin, and cylindrospermopsin.

Need to know about cyanobacteria

Children are especially vulnerable to cyanotoxins, so be mindful of where they go if you are near a body of water like the Virgin River.

  • Do not swim or put your head under the water anywhere in Zion National Park.
  • Keep dogs on a leash in and out of the water. Dogs are vulnerable to cyanotoxin exposure because they may bite or accidentally eat/drink material from potentially toxic algal mats. More information about the danger to dogs from toxic cyanobacteria.
  • Do not drink any water from streams or rivers in Zion National Park. There is no known recreational water filtration method that is effective at removing cyanotoxins. If you must filter water for drinking while in the Wilderness, filter and disinfect it directly from a spring.
  • Contact the Utah Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222 with concerns about cyanotoxin poisoning and call 911 in the event of a medical emergency. Symptoms can include, but are not limited to, skin rash, salivation, drowsiness, tingling, burning, numbness, pain, incoherent speech, seizures, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Some permitted activities, such as technical canyoneering, are allowed. Permits are still required. Check with the Wilderness Office at zion_park_information@nps.gov or 435-772-0170 for more information.

Learn more about toxic cyanobacteria from:

images from zionnps FB

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