Stings from jellyfish can be fatal


This is the second part of three series of features on the risks swimmers faced when encountering the jellyfish.

KUALA LUMPUR: In early February 2010, a Swedish woman vacationing with her family in Langkawi was killed by a jellyfish while bathing off Pantai Cenang.

According to media reports, Carina Löfgren was on her way back to the beach when she encountered the dangerous jellyfish just a few metres from the shore.

Her husband, Ronny Lofgren, was quoted by the media as saying, “Carina was walking roughly one metre in front of me.

“The water level wasn’t deep, it barely reached my trunks. Suddenly she (Carina) started screaming violently and grasped at her legs. It made us realize that it was some kind of stinging jellyfish.

“We tried to remove the tentacles from her. It took four to five seconds, then she collapsed”.

The media reports said Carina was dragged out of the water and her brother, who used to work as an emergency first responder, administered first aid with heart compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

“He administered CPR for four or five minutes,” Ronny explained.

“She died in my arms, he said.

The ambulance reached the beach after 15 minutes. According to Ronny, the paramedics immediately understood that they could do nothing to help Carina at this point.



According to marine biologists, box jellyfish are a group of invertebrates belonging to the class Cubozoa.

One of the most dangerous members of this group is Chironex fleckeri, also known as sea wasp.

Experts say Chironex fleckeri is found in the oceans of Australia and southeastern Asia and an average specimen contains enough venom to kill 60 adult humans.

“They can be very small and transparent which makes them difficult to spot,” said a veteran diver Steven Martyn when met at a hospital here.

“Heart failure is the most common cause of death when stung by a sea wasp.

In most cases and it can happen extremely fast,” said Martyn.



Martyn believes it is important to ask local tourist information agencies about the jellyfish situation in the area.

“Some popular holiday destinations place nets in the water to catch jellyfish, but it will only work against the big ones – the small ones will slip through,” he said.

There were reports that said the swimmers stung by Chironex fleckeri often fail to make it back to the shore and die from drowning or cardiac arrest within minutes.

If a person does make it back, he or she will be in need of immediate treatment, and even with proper treatment, fatalities are common.

Experts advise that while administering first aid, it should be ensured that someone calls for an ambulance.



According to an encyclopedia on marine life, the tentacles of a jellyfish contain uncountable numbers of stinging cells, called nematocysts. The nematocysts protect the jellyfish from many potential predators and are used to stun small prey.

Depending upon the species of jellyfish, contact with the stinging cells can injure, or even kill a human being.

The effects of jellyfish stings can range from mild pain and stinging to skin irritations and blisters, respiratory problems, cardiac arrest, and even death.

The toxicity of a jellyfish sting depends upon the species of jellyfish and the reaction of a person’s body to the jellyfish venom.

The encyclopedia says the most toxic type of jellyfish is the Box Jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri and Caruka barnesi) found in Australia and some regions of the Indo-Pacific.

The venom of the Box Jellyfish has been known to kill a person in five minutes.



People react differently to jellyfish stings, according to Martyn. “Consider a jellyfish sting as a “dose” of poison.

“The smaller the person, the greater the effect of a jellyfish sting will be,” Martyn said.

Just as some people are highly allergic to bees and may go into anaphylactic shock from a single sting, other people may be unusually sensitive to jellyfish venom and may have a similar severe reaction, Martyn added. — BERNAMA


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