Mississippi Gulf Coast beaches close as bacteria spread

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) — People and pets are being warned to stay out of the water along the entire mainland of the Mississippi Gulf Coast as toxic bacteria continue spreading eastward.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality started closing some beaches June 22 and on Sunday closed the last two sections near the Alabama line.

The agency has warned that polluted Midwest floodwaters have fed an outbreak of cyanobacterium. Popularly known as blue-green algae, it can cause rashes, diarrhea and vomiting. It is spreading as water from the Mississippi River pours into the Gulf of Mexico.

Mississippi's beaches are a tourist attraction, but those farther east along the Gulf Coast in Alabama and Florida draw more visitors because the water is generally clearer with more waves. Barrier islands along Mississippi tend to keep the water relatively calm.

The National Park Service said Sunday that beaches remained open on Mississippi's barrier islands, and park rangers were monitoring water conditions because of the algae bloom closer to the mainland. One of places remaining open was the popular tourism site of Ship Island, which is about 11 miles (18 kilometers) south of Gulfport and Biloxi.

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Algae in Lake Erie
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Algae in Lake Erie
OREGON, OH - AUGUST 3: Eden Rogers, 13, uses a stick to try and scoop algae off the shoreline as the shadows of her sisters Brittany Rogers, 27, and Danielle Rogers, 24, with Danielle's toy Australian Shepherd, Barniby, walk the beach at Maumee Bay State Park in Oregon, Ohio on Sunday, August 3, 2014. The sisters, who grew up in the Toledo area, said they came to the beach to look at the Algae bloom, along the shore of Lake Erie, which has rendered the city of Toledo under a State of Emergency after a toxin from the algae polluted the city water supply rendering about 400,000 people in the Toledo area without useable water. (Photo by Ty Wright for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
TOLEDO, OHIO - AUGUST 4: Algae coats rocks at Maumee Bay State Park August 4, 2014 in Oregon, Ohio. Toledo, Ohio area residents were once again able to drink tap water after a two day ban due to algae related toxins. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
TOLEDO, OHIO - AUGUST 4: Carol Snyder of Northwood, Ohio holds up a jar with water collected from Lake Erie at Maumee Bay State Park August 4, 2014 in Oregon, Ohio. Toledo, Ohio area residents were once again able to drink tap water after a two day ban due to algae related toxins. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
TOLEDO, OHIO - AUGUST 4: Algae washes ashore from Lake Erie at Maumee Bay State Park August 4, 2014 in Oregon, Ohio. Toledo, Ohio area residents were once again able to drink tap water after a two day ban due to algae related toxins. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
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