Recognizing Recreational Water Exposure and Habituating HAB Surveillance in ESSENCE


Harmful algal blooms (HABs) consist of colonies of prokaryotic photosynthetic bacteria algae that can produce harmful toxins. The toxins produced by HABs are considered a One Health issue. HABs can occur in all types of water (fresh, brackish, and salt water) and are composed of cyanobacteria or microalgae. As the climate changes, so do many of the factors that contribute to the growth of HABs, which in turn, can increase the incidence of HAB-related illness in humans. There are three main pathways that HAB toxins can affect human health: dermal, gastrointestinal (GI), and neurological. Swimming in or consuming contaminated water and eating contaminated shellfish are ways to develop HAB-related illnesses. Contact with cells from a bloom while recreating can cause a rash on the body. Most commonly, HAB-related illnesses present with GI symptoms that resemble food poisoning and can affect the liver. Rarely, HABs that produce cyanotoxins can present with neurological symptoms. Issuing and lifting freshwater HAB advisories is within the preview of the Environmental Public Health section at the Oregon Public Health Division. However, most water bodies in the state are not monitored. Because of this, syndromic surveillance was considered as a potentially useful source of HAB exposure information, and the Oregon ESSENCE team was asked to develop a query to help monitor HAB-related complaints.


Use ESSENCE to create a sustainable process for identifying ED and urgent care visits that may be related to harmful algal bloom exposure in Oregon.

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Original Publication Year: 
Event/Publication Date: 
January, 2018

January 19, 2018

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