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Communicating During an Emergency: Cyanotoxin Lessons from Oregon

October 08, 2020

Cyanotoxins can be a major summertime public health concern for freshwater bodies. The rapid growth of blue-green algae in these waters can be harmful to humans and animals, particularly children, and it is difficult to decide if an algal bloom is toxic just by looking at it. Oregon health officials had to handle this the hard way when there was an outbreak of cyanotoxins found in the drinking water supply of the state’s capital city Salem in 2018.

This podcast will focus on lessons learned from Oregon Health Authority’s cyanotoxin education and outreach efforts, and how a water contamination emergency caused by cyanotoxins can quickly become a public information emergency. Three guests from OHA will share how they used science-based health messaging as part of their risk communication strategy, and how important partnerships are in tackling cyanotoxins. In addition, OHA staff will discuss tools on the horizon to help conduct surveillance for cyanotoxins and prepare for future events.


  • Curtis Cude, Environmental Public Health Surveillance Program Manager, Environmental Public Health, Oregon Health Authority
  • Kari Salis, Drinking Water Services Technical Services Unit Manager, Oregon Health Authority
  • Lillian Shirley, Public Health Director, Oregon Health Authority