A rise in irukandji stings in Queensland has prompted warnings for Whitsunday swimmers to take precautions in the ocean. Picture: File
A rise in irukandji stings in Queensland has prompted warnings for Whitsunday swimmers to take precautions in the ocean. Picture: File

Spike in stings prompts warning for Whitsunday swimmers

A SPIKE in irukandji jellyfish numbers across the state has prompted a reminder to Whitsunday residents that stinger nets are not foolproof in keeping swimmers safe.

The number of Irukandji jellyfish stings in Queensland has increased in the past 12 months, with data from Surf Life Saving Queensland showing 23 people were stung by the extremely venomous jellyfish between July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020.

This is compared with only six the year prior and nine the year before that.

In 2019, 15 patients presented to Bowen Hospital to be treated for marine stings.

In Proserpine, there were 13 marine sting patients while just four presented to Mackay Base Hospital.

Stinger nets do not prevent irukandji jellyfish and swimmers are advised to wear stinger suits when taking to the water. Picture: AP Photo/Brian Cassey
Stinger nets do not prevent irukandji jellyfish and swimmers are advised to wear stinger suits when taking to the water. Picture: AP Photo/Brian Cassey

With stinger season now well under way, residents are being reminded to take care when hitting the Whitsunday water.

Whitsunday Regional Council’s director of community services Julie Wright said the stinger nets had been reinstalled at Boathaven Beach and Cannonvale Beach a few weeks ago.

However, she said residents should not rely solely on the nets for safety, adding they would not protect against irukandji.

“Not everyone wants to swim at the lagoon, some want to swim in the ocean and so the stinger nets are there to help protect against the elements in the ocean,” she said.

“But we still advise stinger suits to be worn as well.”

Proserpine Hospital director of medical services Dr Shaun Grimes said while marine stings can occur year-round, they are most prevalent from November through the May.

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“Pain inflicted by a marine stinger can be alleviated with some basic treatment while you wait for transport to hospital,” he said.

For irukandji and box jellyfish stings, Dr Grimes said to douse the sting site liberally with vinegar to neutralise the stinging cells.

The patient should be transported to the nearest hospital for immediate medical assessment.

For blue bottle jellyfish, Dr Grimes advised swimmers to wash the affected area with water to remove the tentacles and seek medical advice.

He said vinegar should not be used for these stings.

Mrs Wright also reminded residents that dogs are not allowed to swim in the stinger net enclosures.


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