Fri, Jul 04, 2014 - Page 5 News List

Swimmers stung amid jellyfish invasion

DANGEROUS BEAUTY:One Hengchun Peninsula hospital has treated 20 people for stings in the past four days, many from the highly venomous Portuguese man-of-war

By Tsai Chung-hsien and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Visitors to Kenting in Pingtung County cool off at one of the beaches in the area on Wednesday.

Photo: Tsai Tsung-hsien, Taipei Times

A major jellyfish invasion off the southern coast has kept hospitals busy treating injured swimmers for inflammation and swelling.

Doctors at Hengchun Hospital said they have treated more than 20 cases in the past four days, as the waters off Hengchun Peninsula and the Kenting National Park teem with moon jellyfish, Portuguese man-of-war and other jellyfish.

Doctors said that jellyfish stings have killed people in other countries, but no fatalities have yet been reported in Taiwan. However, they urged the public to take precautions when going into the water, such as wearing a wetsuit.

Hengchun Hospital emergency ward physician Hsiao Fu-ching (蕭福慶) said people stung by jellyfish exhibit blisters and red sores, accompanied by pain and sharp, prickling itchiness. In serious cases, jellyfish stings may led to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing and even unconsciousness, he said.

Stings are treated by immersing the affected area in saline solution to soothe the pain, and with tetanus shots for those with open wounds.

“After being stung by jellyfish, people can soak the affected area in 10 percent white vinegar solution or saline solution for between 15 and 30 minutes. This can slow the release of venom from the injected sting cells,” Hsiao said. “Then they should seek treatment at a hospital right away. Do not use an ice pack or heat pack or massage the affected area, because these actions will prompt faster release of the injected venom.”

Researchers at the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium in Pingtung County said that from their preliminary assessment, most of the recent injuries were by Portuguese man-of-war and moon jellyfish.

“Although it looks beautiful with its aquamarine sail pouch, the Portuguese man-of-war has very strong venom. They are free-floating on the ocean and have purple-blue tentacles with stinging cells, which they use for protection and for capturing prey. They can be found throughout the waters surrounding Taiwan,” said Lee Chan-jung (李展榮), a marine biologist at the museum.

“Many oceanic creatures possess toxic venom or sharp stinging structures, which can cause injury to humans. These include red lionfish, fire coral, sea anemone, cone snail, stingray and others. The Portuguese man-of-war has the second-strongest venom among jellyfish,” Lee said.

“When someone is stung, the affected area should be disinfected quickly and they should seek medical treatment right away,” he added.

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