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Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
Kansas State University
1800 Denison Avenue
Manhattan, KS 66506
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KSVDL Client Care
General Inquiries
785-532-5650 or
866-512-5650
Fax: 785-532-4835
clientcare@vet.k-state.edu

KSVDL Business Office
Billing Inquiries
785-532-3294 or
866-884-3867
Fax: 785-532-3502
vdlbusiness@vet.k-state.edu

Regular business hours:
8 am - 5 pm Mon.-Fri.
8 am - noon Sat.

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May 2019

Blue-green Algae Season is Approaching

By Drs. Steve Ensley and Mike Moore

Summer is quickly approaching and along with long summer days and warm weather, the blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) bloom season will soon be here.

Blue-green algae bloom

Figure 1. Blue-green algae bloom

Blue-green algae can be blue, bright green, brown or red. It can look like scum, foam or a mat on the surface. Or it may look like paint floating on the water. (Figure 1) Do not confuse with plants like moss, duck weed, etc. 

Not all types of blue-green algae blooms produce toxins, but if blooms are present it is best to assume that the water could be dangerous if used for livestock drinking water.            

Cyanobacteria produce neurotoxins and hepatotoxins that can affect livestock, pets and humans when exposed. They live in surface waters in low concentrations and normally cause no problems. During certain weather conditions, these bacteria can be concentrated to a level where toxicity is possible. These weather conditions include: high rainfall events, municipal and agriculture fertilizer run-offs, warm temperatures, and low wind speeds.

Clinical Signs:

Clinical signs of toxicity in all animal species can range from ataxia, dyspnea, weakness, diarrhea, and death. Necropsy findings may be unremarkable or the liver may have a nutmeg appearance.

Diagnosis:

A presumptive diagnosis can be made from clinical signs and recent suspected exposure to cyanobacteria blooms. Microscopy of water or rumen samples and histopathology performed on liver samples can be an aid in diagnosis.

Diagnostic Samples

 

Appropriate samples are a water sample of at least 100 ml. collected an inch below the water surface, and 200 ml of rumen fluid. Both samples should be refrigerated before and during shipping. Do not freeze the sample as this may lyse the cyanobacteria. When collecting water, gloves should be worn, as some cyanobacteria produce dermatotoxins. If KSVDL identifies cyanobacteria in the sample, a test for the amount of the most common toxin (microcystin) can be performed. For tips on sampling, watch a short video on blue-green algae sampling on the KSVDL YouTube page.

A formalin fixed liver sample 4” X 4” and<½” thick is adequate for histopathology.

For more information please contact KSVDL Client Care at 866-512-5650-5650 for more information on these tests.

If algae blooms are observed at a publicly accessible lake, please contact the Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB) Hotline (785-296-1664) established by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), or file a report on their website: http://www.kdheks.gov/algae-illness.

 

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