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Mysterious 'Goo-like' Substance Burns Skin, Forces Closure of Florida Beach; 'We Had to Assume the Worst'

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MANATEE BEACH, Florida -- Slimy heaps of petroleum jelly-like substance that prompted the brief closure of Manatee County beaches turned out to be a type of algae related to red tide, a county official said Wednesday.

Before they knew for sure, Manatee officials feared it was something worse.

"We had to assume the worst," said Charlie Hunsicker, Manatee County director of conservation lands management. "What occurred was the best. We would've been in a far worse situation with an oil spill."

It turned out to be Trichodesmium, a type of algae commonly found where red tide is present. Mixed with the algae is a common type of sea hare that looks like sea weed, Hunsicker said.

Scientists are testing Gulf of Mexico waters off Manatee County to see if a red tide bloom spotted farther south is moving up the coast.

Red tide is an algae bloom releasing a toxin that can kill fish and cause coughing, sneezing and watery eyes in humans. The cause of the increase has not been pinpointed but some research points to pollution as a factor.

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