People and their pets should avoid swimming at a handful of Nebraska lakes that tested high for harmful algal blooms, also known as toxic blue-green algae.

A new health alert was issued this week for Kirkman’s Cove in southeast Nebraska. Alerts are still in place in three other eastern Nebraska counties: Wagon Train Lake in Lancaster County, Rockford Lake in Gage County and Willow Creek Reservoir in Pierce County.

Samples taken earlier this week found elevated levels of the algae at Kirkman’s Cove, Willow Creek Reservoir and Wagon Train Lake.

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The algae found in the Nebraska lakes is the same kind that was found earlier this month at a lake in Wilmington, North Carolina, that killed three dogs.

Alerts will be in place for at least two more weeks, according to a joint press release from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy, and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Lakes that are on a health alert must have two consecutive weeks of readings below the threshold before the alert can be discontinued.

During the alert, recreational boating and fishing are allowed. Public areas can still be used for camping, picnics and outdoor activities. But people should avoid exposure to the water, especially any activities that could lead to swallowing water. Don’t let pets get in the water or drink from the lake.

The Washington Post reported that toxic algae can affect the nervous system, liver and kidneys in humans and animals. Children and dogs are most susceptible because they tend to wade in shallow areas on the edge of ponds or lakes where the algal blooms are concentrated, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. It can be especially dangerous for dogs, who drink the water or ingest the blooms by licking themselves.

Kelsey covers health and fitness for The World-Herald. Follow her on Twitter @kels2. Phone: 402-444-3100.

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