County health officials found elevated levels of enterococcus bacteria in the water near the John Ringling Causeway, a phenomenon they believe is linked to red tide.
Red tide’s ongoing effects on Sarasota’s shores may now include dangerous levels of bacteria in the water near Bird Key Park.
Today, the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County issued a no-swim advisory for Bird Key Park, located near the John Ringling Causeway. The advisory was issued after tests found elevated levels of enterococcus bacteria in the water. The area remains open, but officials warn against swimming and other water recreation while the advisory is in place.
Officials believe the elevated bacteria levels are attributable to natural causes. The county's rapid response team found a wrack line of decaying algae and dead fish associated with red tide in the area. Wrack lines act as natural bacteria reservoirs, the health department said. The elevated bacteria levels may also be linked to recent rains washing pollutants into the water.
The health department said higher levels of bacteria in the water can cause illness, particularly for those who are very young, elderly or have a weak immune system. The water can cause infections or rashes if it comes in contact with a cut or sore.
In addition to avoiding water recreation, officials warned against consuming shellfish found in the area.
The no-swim advisory will remain in place until the bacteria levels return to acceptable limits. Updated water quality tests should be available Friday.