Last updated 8/10/2018 at 10:12am
The following is only information as to what to look for and avoid in any body of fresh or marine water in every lake across the globe.
This is not specific to the Salton Sea, nor is it to confirm any report that the Salton Sea currently has a cyanobacteria warning. The Salton Sea is still beautiful and perfectly safe to swim and boat in.
Cyanobacteria are a phylum of bacteria that obtain their energy through photosynthesis. Sometimes they are called blue-green algae, this is incorrect, it is not algae, it is bacteria that can be free living or form symbiotic relationships with plants (algae are a non-flowering aquatic plant) or with lichen forming fungi (Lichens are a complex life form that is in symbiotic partnership with two separate organisms, fungus and algae).
Cyanobacteria can produce neurotoxins, cytotoxins, endotoxins, and hepatotoxins. They are the most successful group of microorganisms on earth as well as the most genetically diverse, they occupy a broad range of habitats across all latitudes and conditions, they live in both fresh water and marine water.
Cyanobacteria are the only photosynthetic prokaryotes that can produce oxygen which is a by-product of photosynthesis with the ability to perform oxygenic photosynthesis and respiration simultaneously in the same compartment.
Blooms will occur anytime in warm, slow moving waters that are rich in nutrients, and when the algae that are normally present grow in numbers more than normal. Because they prefer calm waters when the water is disrupted, their life cycles are disrupted.
The cyanobacteria microorganisms are known for their highly visible blue/green blooms that can be toxic. In the worst-case-scenario, exposure to these toxins could affect the liver, nervous system and skin.
Abdominal cramps, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting can occur if the water is swallowed (there are no reports of this happening to anyone recreating at the Salton Sea). It is simply best not to come in contact with water in areas where you see foam, scum, or mats of algae on the water.
If you come in contact with an algae bloom, wash with soap and water right away. If you experience illness, contact your healthcare provider right away.