It may be summer, but for now, the beaches in Hancock County, Pass Christian, Long Beach and one station in Gulfport are officially closed.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality began issuing closure advisories over the weekend due to a rapid growth of Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) on the surface of the water in the affected areas.

"MDEQ advises people, and their pets, to avoid water contact such as swimming or wading because exposure to the blue-green HAB can be harmful," according to an agency press release. "The closures refer to water contact and do not prohibit use of the sand portion of a beach."

"We did more sampling today including in Hancock County," MDEQ Communications Director Robbie Wilbur said Tuesday, but the results had not come back by press time.

"The algae can cause rashes, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting," according to the press release. "MDEQ advises that those exposed wash with soap and water and to not eat fish or any other seafood taken from affected areas."

Wilbur said there is no specific data. as yet. linking the algal bloom to the influx of water from the Bonnet Carre Spillway, but said the MDEQ Beach Monitoring program will continue testing and advise the public when the water is safe again.

The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources is also monitoring the situation, MDMR Executive Director Joe Spraggins said in a press release Tuesday.

"The public’s safety is very important to our state and our agency will continue working closely with MDEQ to monitor our waters and our seafood," Spraggins said.

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