Saturday, December 31, 2016

This is really bad news...

From The Guardian:
Swimmers are being urged to take extra care in waters off Queensland amid warnings the deadly irukandji jellyfish is moving further south.
Four people have been taken to hospital since Wednesday after suffering suspected irukandji stings off Queensland’s Fraser coast.
The irukandji – the world’s smallest and most venomous box jellyfish – is usually found in waters north of Mackay, about 700km further up the coast.
The James Cook University associate professor Jamie Seymour said it was clear the species was following warming sea temperatures south.
“We’ve got good data now that shows quite nicely that irukandji has been spreading down the east coast of Australia, moving slowly but surely southwards,” he told ABC radio.
“It’s only a matter of time before they get to the southern end of Fraser Island down to the Sunny coast.”
If irukandji become an annual problem at my favourite Australian beach area - beautiful Noosa - I suspect it could mean a big hit to its tourism industry.

As for the number of people stung around the Fraser Island area - I see that a few years ago, there were 6 people hospitalised for it, so the numbers are staying pretty constant recently.

I've only ever had one decent bluebottle sting in my life, on my forearm, and the welts and pain from that were pretty excruciating.  I hate to imagine how painful and distressing a sting from a jelly fish that routinely puts people in hospital must be.  And, according to that last link, the sting effects can be somewhat delayed:
...the irukandji can take days before its effects are fully felt.

The initial sting is typically mild, followed by vomiting, profuse sweating, headache, agitation, rapid heart rate and high blood pressure. 

The increase in blood pressure may be life-threatening and can be associated with abnormal heart beat and heart failure.
Actually, according to Wikipedia, it is more commonly only about 30 minutes before the pain and distress hits in.  And note the unusual psychological effect it seems to have:
 Because the jellyfish is very small, and the venom is only injected through the tips of the nematocysts (the cnidocysts) rather than the entire lengths, the sting may barely be noticed at first. It has been described as feeling like little more than a mosquito bite. The symptoms, however, gradually become apparent and then more and more intense in the subsequent five to 120 minutes (30 minutes on average). Irukandji syndrome includes an array of systemic symptoms, including severe headache, backache, muscle pains, chest and abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, sweating, anxiety, hypertension, tachycardia and pulmonary edema.[4][11][12] One unusual symptom associated with the syndrome is a feeling of "impending doom".[13] Patients have been reported as being so certain they are going to die, they beg their doctors to kill them to get it over with.[14] Symptoms generally abate in four to 30 hours, but may take up to two weeks to resolve completely.[6]
A creature best avoided, that's for sure.

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