PANWA: The Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC) has issued an official warning following the collection of almost 40 box jellyfish in a trap in shallow waters, off Ao Nambor, on Phuket’s east coast.
Some 38 of the jellyfish, which favor shallow brackish water, were recovered from a fish trap in a mangrove area on July 30. Eighteen more were found in the same area over a two-day collection period starting on October 20.
The search for the deadly jellyfish followed the reported death of a Swedish tourist off Koh Lanta, where another person was reported stung on April 3 this year.
A two-hour search using a seine off Koh Lanta on August 22 recovered 13 specimens, six of the multi-tentacled Chirodropidae family and seven of the smaller, single-tentacled Carybdeidae family.
The PMBC began their search for the jellyfish in Phuket in early July, working jointly with members of the Disease Control Department’s Epidemiology Office.
The researchers have also questioned staff at four hospitals along the Andaman Coast to learn the incidence and type of jellyfish stings that have been reported there.
Somchai Bussarawit, Chief of Reference Collection at the PMBC’s Phuket Aquarium, is working with the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute in Australia to identify the collected specimens.
Of seven specimens collected at Ao Nambor that have already been sent to the institute, one has been confirmed as a Chirosoides buitendijkl, one of the seven members of the Chirodropidae family, he said.
The PMBC is preparing to send six more specimens which are thought possibly to be of the Carybdeidae family, he said.
The PMBC researcher, who expressed surprise at the discovery of these box jellies in local waters, said searches will now be conducted monthly.
Noting that he is not an expert in jellyfish, he said it was still unsure what threat the collected species found at Ao Nambor posed to people.
Although there have been no reports of box jellyfish stings in Phuket waters, the PMBC has issued a warning advising the public on what measures to take if they are stung.
Although not all box jellyfish are dangerous to humans, stings from the most venomous varieties can cause death within four minutes if the venom reaches the heart and causes cardiac arrest.
Any person who has suffered a possible box jellyfish sting should get out of the water as soon as possible, have his or her pulse rate monitored, and undergo cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the event of heart failure.
The site of a sting should immediately be treated with vinegar to stop further injection of the toxin, the PMBC advises.
Do not rub or scratch the site of the sting or apply fresh water or alcohol to it, the PMBC advises.
Mr Somchai reiterated that there have been no box jellyfish sitings on west coast beaches, where the seawater is generally too saline an environment for box jellies.
However, he advises seaside resorts in all parts of the island to keep bottles of vinegar as a standard part of their first aid kits as it is effective in treating stings from other kinds of less venomous jellyfish.
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