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Tampa Bay Becomes Red Tide Epicenter. Pinellas Respiratory Warnings Follow.

 Map of red tide
Map of red tide

Tons of dead fish have washed ashore in the wake of Tropical Storm Elsa. On Sunday, Pinellas health officials recommended that anyone with respiratory problems consider avoiding county beaches.

Tampa Bay has become the state's epicenter of red tide, and Pinellas County health officials have issued recommendations to people with respiratory issues to avoid areas experiencing the blooms.

Respiratory irritation related to red tide also was reported over the past week in Pinellas and Sarasota counties.

On Sunday, theFlorida Department of Health in Pinellas said that anyone with respiratory problems consider staying away from beaches or go into an air-conditioned space.

"Some people may have mild and short-lived respiratory symptoms such as eye, nose, and throat irritation similar to cold symptoms," the department wrote on its website. "Some individuals with breathing problems such as asthma might experience more severe symptoms."

Officials also advise people not to swim around dead fish, or to eat dead fish from locations experiencing red tide. They also recommend keeping pets away from water, sea foam and dead marine life.

On Friday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported that high concentrations of red tide were found in Tampa Bay, including several areas near downtown St. Petersburg.

Dead fish have washed ashore from Tropical Storm Elsa and swamped St. Petersburg and Pinellas beaches. Crews from the city collected 9 tons of dead fish since Thursday. City officials said they were killed by red tide blooms.

Fish kills suspected to be related to red tide were also reported the past week in Pasco, Hillsborough, Manatee, and Sarasota counties.

The organism that causes red tide has been found in 53 places along the Gulf Coast over the previous week. High concentrations were found in 27 samples. Of those, 12 were in Pinellas, eight in Hillsborough, six in Pasco and one in Sarasota County.

Medium concentrations of red tide were found off several places in Pinellas including Anclote Key, Redington Beach, Weedon Island and Gulfport.

Information from Health News Florida's Steve Newborn and the Associated Press was used in this report.

 Map of red tide in Tampa Bay
/ Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Map of red tide in Tampa Bay

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Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.