Box Jellyfish

Another Box Jellyfish Sting – Timely Reminder

A British tourist was stung by a box jellyfish off Pattaya last week and as a result of fairly minor contact on the arm (a wetsuit vest probably saved his life) suffered loss of consciousness, hypertension, vomiting, etc and was hospitalized for 24 hours.

This is a timely reminder particularly with wet season and cyclonic winds that the planet’s most venomous creature does exist in all waters of Thailand. It is not common that people are attacked though I am aware of 7 victims in 3 separate incidents in 4 months…and that’s just among visitors who have made their attacks known.

As mentioned in a previous thread, a 10 year old Swedish girl was tragically killed on Koh Lanta in April 2008 after falling onto a jellyfish from an air mattress. She was dead within 30 seconds. An unidentified nurse at the hospital she was taken to told a Swedish journalist that the cause of death was ‘severe allergic reaction or anaphylactic shock’. This was quoted in an online English-language bulletin and spread like wildfire around the world prompting comments in various forums about how the unfortunate Swedish girl had a pre-existing condition that ultimately caused her death. This is simply untrue.

Firstly, jellyfish-related anaphylaxis is unheard of in children according to western toxinologists and allergists specializing in this area. To draw this conclusion in the first place, detailed pathology tests and autopsy would be required, none was done. All of the evidence including images of the lesions and symptoms show without a doubt according to numerous experts names available if required that this poor girl’s death was a direct result of multi-tentacle box jellyfish envenomation.

For whatever reason, the standard response from the authorities regarding this issue is mis-guided and ill-informed to say the least. A Swiss tourist and Australian tourist who died from jellyfish stings within 2 days of each other on Koh Phangan in 2002 were also ‘written off’ as allergy-related though evidence as documented at the time again points to lethal box jellyfish envenomation.

Again, while the chances of this happening are remote, evidence suggests that people will continue to get stung. Indeed, there is informed opinion (yes, this is speculation though there is evidence that this situation is occuring now in Australia and the ‘stinger season’ is increasing there) that says chances of getting stung will increase for the following reasons. Each box jellyfish lives for around 3 months, each will spawn around 750,000 offspring that exist as polyps on rocks, mangroves, etc. An increase in pollution and nutrification of the water will increase the food supply of these polyps and in turn increase their chances of survival. Their main predator is turtle and unfortunately their numbers are rapidly diminishing though their impact is at best negligible.

More people are asking for advice on forums such as this to find that remote, unspoilt, untouristed beach paradise and heading further afield in their quest. I suggest when they get there they ensure they are carrying a bottle of vinegar to splash on a jellyfish sting just in case and also ask the locals if it’s safe and hopefully get more than just the response the locals think they want to hear.

This message is not alarmist or over dramatic or sensationalist or whatever, it is based on fact which has not existed on this subject previously. It does not mean stay out of the sea, stick to the pool or just stay at home. It means be informed and exercise caution. A seong thaw or motorbike or other vehicle could hit someone and cause injury in an instant and while we probably can’t do much about it and sensibly don’t spend much time thinking about it (unless you’re helplessly stuck on that white knuckle hellride at the mercy of a maniacal driver), at least we know it is a possibility. It’s the risk we take. There are zillions of others. This is another one to add to the list if you want.


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