Ex­pert: pro­tect against irukandji and jel­ly­fish

Whitsunday Times - - NEWS - Monique Pre­ston monique.pre­ston @whit­sun­day­times.com.au

A JEL­LY­FISH ex­pert has warned that peo­ple should wear pro­tec­tive cloth­ing when swim­ming in the Whit­sun­days, es­pe­cially at this time of year.

While stings from jel­ly­fish and irukandji can be painful, Ma­rine Stinger Au­thor­ity di­rec­tor Lisa Gersh­win said they should not stop peo­ple from en­joy­ing the beach.

Rather, she said peo­ple should sim­ply don pro­tec­tive cloth­ing such as a stinger suit when they en­tered the wa­ter. Her warn­ings come on the back of at least two jel­ly­fish stings in Air­lie Beach dur­ing the past two weeks.

The most re­cent was a seven-year-old boy who was stung in Shin­g­ley Drive on Tues­day, while a woman was stung in the wa­ter at Shin­g­ley Beach in the days lead­ing up to Christ­mas.

Both were treated at Proser­pine Hospi­tal.

Dr Gersh­win has stud­ied irukandji and box jel­ly­fish for the past 21 years.

She has named 14 of the 16 known species of irukanji and has dis­cov­ered more than 216 new species of jel­ly­fish.

Given her stud­ies of the crea­tures, Dr Gersh­win said she would never en­ter the wa­ter in the trop­ics without pro­tec­tive cloth­ing and likened wear­ing them to wear­ing a seat­belt.

Pro­tec­tive cloth­ing should be as nor­mal and nat­u­ral as wear­ing a seat­belt or sun­screen,” she said.

“Just be­cause they (jel­ly­fish) are out there, doesn’t mean we have to get stung by them.”

Dr Gersh­win did, how­ever, warn that when irukandji were around, they tended to ap­pear in num­bers, and at th­ese times, she said, peo­ple should stay out of the wa­ter en­tirely that day.

How­ever, they also ap­peared on their own at times, and this was what pro­tec­tive cloth­ing helped against.

Dr Gersh­win said if a per­son was stung by an irukandji or box jel­ly­fish in the trop­ics, they should ap­ply vine­gar im­me­di­ately.

This was also rec­om­mended by the Aus­tralian Re­sus­ci­ta­tion Coun­cil which set the guide­lines for first aid, Dr Gersh­win said.

“The vine­gar has the best chance of min­imis­ing the venom,” she said.

“The vine­gar won’t stop the pain of the sting or stop the ac­tion of any sting on board.

“In most stings, you get 10 to 20 per cent of the sting at the be­gin­ning.

“You are try­ing to stop the other 80 to 90 per cent from in­ject­ing venom.”

Dr Gersh­win is the co-cre­ator of The Jel­ly­fish app for smart­phones which she said aimed to give peo­ple in­for­ma­tion about jel­ly­fish and make them less scared of them.

PHOTO: LISA GERSH­WIN/MA­RINE STINGER AU­THOR­ITY

PAINFUL STING: A Carukia bar­nesi, the so-called com­mon irukandji.

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