Australian Dives Face-First Into Deadly Peanut Sized Jellyfish

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The 29-year-old man, whose name has not been released, was flown to hospital, where doctors in the intensive care unit fought to treat the potentially fatal sting.When he dove off the yacht off north-east Queensland on Thursday, the man was wearing a full-length “stinger suit,” a lightweight version of a wet suit that covers everything but the face, feet and hands and is designed to protect against venomous jellyfish that are common in northern Australia’s waters during the Southern Hemisphere summer.

But when he dove into the water near South Molle Island, he was immediately stung in the face by a potentially lethal Irukandji jellyfish, Central Queensland Helicopter Rescue Service spokeswoman Leonie Hansen said. He was taken back to the island, where a rescue team rushed to his aid.

“The crew said he was shivering and in shock and in a great deal of pain,” Miss Hansen said.The man, from Brisbane, was in serious condition on Friday at Mackay Base Hospital in Mackay, 600 miles north of the Queensland capital, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Australia is well known for its myriad deadly creatures, but the Irukandji remains relatively mysterious. It is a distant relative of the more notorious and widely feared box jellyfish, the sting of which can kill an adult within 2 minutes. But the Irukandji is virtually impossible to see and is tiny enough to pass through nets meant to keep jellyfish away from popular swimming spots.

The jellyfish’s sting can lead to “Irukandji syndrome,” a set of symptoms that includes shooting pains in the muscles and chest, vomiting, restlessness and anxiety. Some symptoms can last for more than a week, and the syndrome can occasionally lead to a rapid rise in blood pressure and heart failure.

In 2002, two tourists were killed in separate incidents after being stung by the tiny creatures off northeast Australia – the first recorded Irukandji fatalities. But because the jellyfish leave almost no mark on their victims, scientists believe they are responsible for many deaths that were attributed as drownings or heart attacks, said Lisa Gershwin, a marine biologist who has spent 11 years studying the animals.

The most common Irukandji measures just 0.4 inches in length and has tentacles as thin as a strand of hair that can grow up to 3 feet, Miss Gershwin said.

There is no antivenom, and people generally do not realise that they have been stung at first. The initial sting causes little pain, and it may be up to half an hour before a victim starts to feel the effects.

But those effects, Miss Gershwin says, can ultimately be disastrous, with some stings causing blood pressures to soar as high as 280 over 180.

The creatures are found worldwide, from North Wales to Cape Town in South Africa, Miss Gershwin said.

(source)

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