TWO DIE OFF MICHAEL­MAS

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Daniel Bate­man

A MED­I­CAL ex­pert has sug­gested the two French tourists may have been stung by jel­ly­fish be­fore they died at Michael­mas Cay yes­ter­day.

The el­derly cou­ple in their 70s de­clared they had pre-ex­ist­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions, be­fore they went snorkelling.

They were both sus­pected to have had suf­fered heart at­tacks be­fore they were found float­ing in the wa­ter by dive crew shortly be­fore 11am.

James Cook Univer­sity med­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion di­rec­tor Dr Tarun Sen Gupta said there was an ex­tremely slim chance two peo­ple would suf­fer heart at­tacks at the same time, in the same place, even if they had pre-ex­ist­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions.

“If some­one’s hav­ing a heart at­tack in my of­fice, the chance of the next per­son hav­ing a heart at­tack in one in a mil­lion,” he said.

“It’s a very, very rate event and I’ve never seen it in 30 years of prac­tice.

“I think the chances of it are very small.”

He sus­pected there may be an en­vi­ron­men­tal factor, such as a ma­rine en­ven­o­ma­tion — pos­si­bly from a jel­ly­fish.

“I would think there may have been some­thing in the wa­ter, some toxin, maybe an en­ven­o­ma­tion,” he said. “I think you would have to look at that.”

Irukandji jel­ly­fish are found in trop­i­cal wa­ters, in­clud­ing the Great Bar­rier Reef, usu­ally be­tween Oc­to­ber through to May.

Two deaths world­wide had been at­trib­uted to irukandji syn­drome but many other vic­tims are hos­pi­talised as a re­sult of the jel­ly­fish each year.

Dr Sen Gupta said med­i­cal ex­am­in­ers would need to look at the pos­si­bil­ity the cou­ple may have been vic­tims of ma­rine stingers.

“You would have to as­sume it is some­thing in the en­vi­ron­ment,” he said. “You’d look at all pos­si­bil­i­ties, but it would be pre­ma­ture to draw any con­clu­sions at this stage.”

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