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Blue-green algae outbreak kills 32 cattle in Oregon

Blue-green algae bloom on Lake Winnebago in Menasha, July 6, 2016 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

LAKEVIEW, Ore. (AP) — A blue-green algae outbreak in an Oregon reservoir has killed 32 cattle.

The outbreak began about a month ago on KV Bar Ranch, the Capital Press reported. Concern rose when ranchers started seeing cattle with blue legs, ranch owner John Shine said.

"We had a reservoir that cattle have been drinking out of for 60 years, and never had a problem. Then this breeze comes from the north and carried this layer of scum 3 to 4 feet from the edge and that's what they were drinking," he said. "We thought it was poison at first. We didn't know what it was."

Theo Dreher, a microbiology professor at Oregon State University, said it's rather unusual to lose 32 cattle in "one hit."

"It's probably not infrequent in cases of ranch land cattle where a few stock die, but this is pretty exceptional, and points out the danger that does exist when you get one of these blooms," Dreher said.

Blue-green algae are bacteria that occur naturally in many fresh and still waters. The toxin can affect both animals and people.

Officials suspect the bloom formed because of Oregon's increased rainwater this winter and spring after several years of drought.

Losing 32 cattle "is relatively devastating" for producers, said Pete Schreder, an OSU Extension livestock agent. Death can come up to 72 hours after initial exposure.

"There is no treatment available," said Dr. Rod Ferry, a veterinarian at Lakeview Animal Hospital.

This is the first reported case of blue-green algae in Lake County, according to Schreder and Ferry.

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