The Cayuga County Health Department is investigating reports of people developing an itchy rash after swimming in an isolated part of northern Owasco Lake last weekend.
Eileen O'Connor, the county's director of environmental health, said about 40 reports have come in from people who were in the water in an area where boats often anchor south of the Deauville Island beach. Most of the cases involve people who were in that area of the water on Sunday, when the area was busy with the annual Great Race and related festivities.
O'Connor said the health department has collected water samples and sent them to the state Department of Health's testing facility in Albany to see if they can determine whether the rashes were a result of exposure to the lake water, and if so, what might be causing it. She said there was nothing visible in the water, such as the presence of blue-green algae, to suggest what could be causing the problem.
In the meantime, the health department is encouraging people who may have experienced a rash after swimming in the lake to contact Andrea Simmons, director of community health, at (315) 253-1560.
Descriptions of the rash have varied, although most described it as itchy. O'Connor said most people also reported that the rash is clearing up with the use of over-the-counter products.
O'Connor said no rash reports have come from people who swam at the island beach at Emerson Park, but as a precaution, that area has been closed off to swimming. The county has opened its other beach on the pavilion side of the park.
O'Connor stressed that the reports are not widespread. "This is really localized," she said. "We're not getting calls from all over the lake."