JellyFish Facts

Jellyfish Sting Death

Jellyfish Sting Death picture

Jellyfish Sting Death

Death by jellyfish stings have been reported from all over the world and mostly these fatalities are caused by the box jellyfish. If we look into the reports that are available since 1954, we find that about 5,500 people have died due to the sting of different types of box jellyfish. The most deadly types of the box jellyfish are Chironex fleckeri and Carukia barnesi. These mainly inhabit the waters around Australia and the Philippines and are also found in waters of the Caribbean, Hawaii and Vietnam. These jellies are known to kill humans with a single sting and the only creatures that are immune to their venom are certain sea turtles.

Chironex fleckeri is known to have a high concentration of stinger cells in its tentacles, and one tentacle can hold about half a million harpoon-shaped stingers called nematocysts. Each tentacle can grow up to 15 feet in length, and the creature usually has about 60 of them. Although most jellyfish are not aggressive, the Chironex fleckeri is a predator and actively seeks out its prey and can swim at a speed of 5 miles per hour. Among all the different deadly jellyfish, the Chironex fleckeri has caused the most deaths among humans.

The nematocysts of the Chironex fleckeri get triggered chemically whenever they encounter certain chemicals present on the human skin. These barbs have a firing mechanism and they get embedded into the skin and release their venom. The venom is highly toxic and mainly causes excruciating pain, nausea and problems in breathing. The toxin in the venom causes paralysis of the respiratory tract and can also cause the collapse of the cardiovascular functions, resulting in the stopping of the heart. Many people after being stung by the Chironex fleckeri have died due to drowning, because the venom also causes neuromuscular paralysis and the person is unable to swim.

One can save a person stung by the Chironex fleckeri by the timely administration of an antivenin which is available in the Commonwealth Serum Laboratory in Australia. The dose has to be administered as soon as possible and the only first aid is to douse the area with vinegar to try and neutralise the venom. If the antivenin is not given in time the person will have a cardiac arrest and die.

The Carukia barnesi also has a deadly venom, but its toxicity is less when compared to the venom of Chironex fleckeri. The only problem with the venom of Carukia barnesi is that it does not cause much pain initially and the person may not be aware that he has been stung. This causes delay in administering treatment which may prove fatal. The venom can take about four minutes or more to act on the body, to manifest the more serious symptoms, by which time it might be too late.

A sting from the Carukia barnesi causes nausea, increased heart rate and blood pressure, pain in different parts of the body, anxiety and can lead to tachycardia or pulmonary edema if left untreated. Scientists have still not figured out the exact mechanism of this venom and therefore are unable to produce an effective antivenin.

Learn more about Jellyfish Stings and Jellyfish Safety

Learn more about Jellyfish, different Jellyfish Species, general Jellyfish Information, Jellyfish Pets and Jellyfish Safety

Written by and Sudarsana Sinha.

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