Monday, 18 March, 2019

Jellyfish 'Epidemic' Hits Australian Coast

German tourists Mimi Wiebeling and Pauline Lapetite carry surfboards as they walk into the surf wearing Christmas hats at Sydney's Bondi Beach on Christmas Day in Australia REUTERS David Gray High Temps Down Under Australia Swelters in Record Breaking Heat Wave
Frank Williams | 08 January, 2019, 22:28

Vast numbers of bluebottle jellyfish have swarmed beaches in Queensland, Australia, stinging thousands of people and forcing the closure of swim spots.

Over the weekend alone, more than 5,000 people were stung as weather drove an armada of bluebottle jellyfish toward shore, the Guardian reports. More than 18,000 stings were recorded in Queensland in December, three times more cases than a year ago over the same period. The Australian Marine Stinger Advisory Service (AMSAS) states 22 people have been admitted to hospital in the state in recent weeks with suspected Irukandji jellyfish stings, which is well above the ten-year average.

Surf Life Saving duty officer Jeremy Sturges said it was an "epidemic".

Fortunately, most of the stings were caused by so-called bluebottle colonies, which are not life threatening.

According to the report, some 2630 people were stung across the weekend, with nearly 1000 hurt in a matter of hours on Sunday. Several of those stung suffered anaphylactic shock.

Unusually strong northeasterly swell conditions pushed the bluebottles onshore and they are clumped in their thousands along the shoreline.

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Most incidents took place in Queensland's heavily populated Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast regions.

"When you look at a bluebottle, and you see the bubble and the blue fringes and the long blue tentacles, that is actually a colony, that is not an individual". The beaches were forced to be shut down over the weekend to tackle the situation.

The "wall of bluebottles" - also known as Portuguese man o' war - swept Queensland's Gold and Sunshine coasts and was described as an "invasion" by local media.

"A bluebottle has that sail that sticks up so the wind grabs the sail and drives them ashore", she told the BBC.

The stings are typically mild and can be treated with ice or hot water, however some people had required treatment by paramedics at the weekend, Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) said.

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