A One Health Approach to Harmful Algal Blooms

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One Health

Our recent work to connect human, animal, and environmental health in the US and around the world.


November 2017

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A One Health Approach to Harmful Algal Blooms


Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are a One Health issue because they affect human, animal, and environmental health. HABs can contaminate the environment, drinking water, recreational water, and food. Exposure to HAB toxins through water, food, or air may cause a range of mild to severe symptoms in both humans and animals.


CDC and states are working to learn more about HABs and how to prevent and control the illnesses they can cause.



MMWR Highlights New York's Work on HABs

A recent CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report features work by the New York State Department of Health on investigating HABs using a One Health approach. The article highlights information collected through a pilot HAB surveillance system, which found that illnesses associated with HABs may be more common than previously thought. The surveillance project showed a threefold increase in reported illnesses when compared to past years.


See the full article: Harmful Algal Bloom–Associated Illnesses in Humans and Dogs Identified Through a Pilot Surveillance System — New York, 2015



One Health Harmful Algal Blooms System

OHHABS logo  

The One Health Harmful Algal Bloom System (OHHABS) is a voluntary reporting system available to state and territorial public health departments and their designated environmental health or animal health partners. It collects data on individual human and animal cases of illnesses from HAB-associated exposures, as well as environmental data about HABs. OHHABS is an example of One Health surveillance. The goal of OHHABS is to collect information to support the understanding and prevention of HABs and HAB-associated illnesses.

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One Health in Action: Poisoned Sea Otters in California


In 2007, California scientists and veterinarians found themselves in the middle of a mystery. Over the span of a year, 11 dead or dying sea otters had been found around Monterey Bay, California. A One Health investigation team with scientists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), US Geological Survey (USGS), the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), the State Water Resources Control Board, and local universities and organizations came together to crack the case. They found a large HAB to be the culprit.


Learn more




How to Prevent HAB-Associated Illnesses

HAB Prevention  


Protect yourself and your pets from HABs by not entering or playing in bodies of water that:


  • Smell bad
  • Look discolored
  • Have foam, scum, or algal mats on the surface
  • Contain or are near dead fish or other dead animals (for example, do not enter a body of water if dead fish have washed up on its shore or beach)


Follow local or state guidance if you are notified that your tap water contains algal toxins. Boiling water does not remove algal toxins and can increase the amount of toxin in the water.


Be aware of advisories and health risks related to consuming contaminated fish and shellfish. For more information, see the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Choose Fish and Shellfish Wisely web pages.

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Find updates about One Health, diseases spread between humans and animals, new infographics, and much more on our home page.