Northern Health has issued an advisory warning of a blue-green algae outbreak in parts of Bednesti-Berman, Nulki and West Lakes. Coming into contact with the algae, either by swimming through it or drinking water containing the substance, can create a range of irritations both externally and internally. The best thing to do is to get out of the water and wash yourself with fresh water. Symptoms, like a rash or sore throat, usually appear within 1 to 3 hours and resolve in 1 to 2 days. If they last longer than a couple of days, seek medical attention by going to your family doctor. Northern Health environmental health officer David Ho said the bloom should last for some time. "In the past, we usually see these blooms come up in August, so this year  has been a little unusual," he said. "They did come quite early, and we expect it to last at least through August 2016." The blooms can be naturally occurring, but there are things that can contribute to their rise, such as runoff of fertilizers and pesticides. "Even sometimes malfunctioning septic systems will introduce unwanted nutrients [that feed the blooms]," said Ho. Northern Health is working with the community associations to see whether steps can be taken to lessen the problem, Ho said. "For this advisory, we are being proactive and warning users to use their judgment," Ho said. "If you see the green scum floating around, just avoid it." The algae can also be greenish-brown, brown, or pinkish-red, and often smells musty or grassy. Boiling lake water will not remove the toxins the algae produce and alternate sources of drinking water should also be provided for pets and livestock. Fillets from fish caught in the lakes can be eaten, but consumption of whole fish and trimmings should be limited for both people and pets.