TWO DIE OFF MICHAELMAS
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.”