The Box Jelly has stinging, ribbon-like tentacles.
(Scientific Name: Chironex fleckeri)
The box jelly is almost invisible in crystal clear water. Every summer, thousands of these deadly creatures invade the shallow waters of Australia’s northern coastline.
Size: The box jelly’s body (or bell) may measure 23 centimetres in length, but itstentacles can be many metres long. The box jelly can pull in its tentacles to avoid damage in rough, shallow water.
Number of human deaths: At least 60 people have died in Australia from box jelly stings.
Effects of venom: The box jelly has the most powerful, fast-acting venom in the world. The tentacles have millions of stinging cell organelles (extremely small organs inside the cell) called nematocysts. Each nematocyst leaves a red spot and a painful sting on any skin it comes into contact with, but because the stings are multiple, the red marks are shaped like whip lashes. The box jelly has 60 ribbon-like tentacles that can be several metres long. Even a mild sting can be extremely painful, so many of the box jelly’s victims panic and drown. The venom can cause death within minutes. In fact, most victims died within 20 minutes of a sting. Although box jelly anti-venom is available, the effects are so quick that it is often too late to use it.
Avoiding contact: Box jellies are most common in northern Australia during the warmer months from November to May, when swimming in the ocean is not recommended. Most tropical beaches have signs warning people to stay out of the sea and what to do if they are stung. Protective clothing, such as a wetsuit, prevents stings but the best prevention is not to swim in the sea during box jelly season.
Because of the severe pain, victims usually cannot apply any first aid, often they cannot even get out of the water without someone helping them! Once out of the water,lots of vinegar should be poured over the stung area for at least 30 seconds to prevent more nematocysts stinging. If the victim is unconscious, clear their airway and start resuscitation. If possible, a health professional should give the victim oxygen and anti-venom. Fast transportation to the nearest hospital is crucial.
How bad and painful the sting is depends on where the victim is stung and over how much of the body. Small children are more at risk of dying from the box jelly’s sting than adults.
Where to watch out: The deadly box jelly frequents the shallow coastal waters off the tropical coast of northern Australia.
Extracted from Fact File: Australia’s Deadly and Dangerous Animals Steve Parish Publishing