POSITIVE REACTION: Fraser Coast tourist operators were praised for their proactive reaction to Irukandji concerns.
POSITIVE REACTION: Fraser Coast tourist operators were praised for their proactive reaction to Irukandji concerns. Valerie Horton

Three hospitalised from stings after swimming on Bay beach

THREE people have been admitted to Hervey Bay Hospital after developing Irukandji-like symptoms after swimming at a prominent Hervey Bay beach.

All those cases happened on January 8, after the three individuals were in the water at Torquay.

Among the victims was a 7-year-old boy, an 8-year-old girl and a 39-year-old woman, with patients hospitalised for up to two days.

A Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service spokesperson described their illnesses as serious marine envenomation, with symptoms said to be consistent with Irukandji syndrome.

The recent stings follow a string of people experiencing Irukandji syndrome after swimming off Fraser Island, with other similar occurrences recorded at Torquay.

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In response to a surge of sting incidents, Fraser Coast Tourism Advisory Group (TAG) initiated a meeting among tourism operators to discuss the jellyfish situation.

Held yesterday, Cairns-based James Cook University associate professor Jamie Seymour was invited over speaker phone to answer questions of our local operators.

Prof Seymour, who has studied venomous creatures for the past 20 years, caught an Irukandji off Fraser Island earlier this month.

Fraser Coast mayor Chris Loft previously brushed off his Irukandji find as "media hype" when the Fraser Coast Chronicle initially broke the story.

But after the TAG meeting, he said council would now be looking at boosting awareness to the public.

"Council will work with Surf Life Saving Queensland and tourism operators to boost awareness through education and awareness campaigns," he said.

"We have taken that information into account in developing our response."

Among his suggestions is adding brochures to accommodations, relying on people using commonsense, and word of mouth.

"I would hope that residents would let visiting friends and family know about any possibilities before they head to the beach," he said.

"People swimming in Queensland would be aware that there is always a potential that they could be stung."

Those recommendations don't include installing public signage.

On alert for the potential of dangerous jellyfish inhabitation, Surf Life Saving regional operations manager Craig Holden said Surf Life Saving had been doing drags in the area.

"We did some drags at Hervey Bay's beaches throughout the entire stretch, and also on Fraser Island again," Mr Holden said.

"All those drags turned up clear.

"That doesn't mean there's nothing there.

"But it does give a little peace of mind."

 

Fraser Island - Surf Life Saving Queensland have conducted marine stinger drags on Fraser Island.  The drags were to look for Irukandji - a large numer of hydazoan were collected in the drags.
Fraser Island - Surf Life Saving Queensland have conducted marine stinger drags on Fraser Island. The drags were to look for Irukandji - a large numer of hydazoan were collected in the drags. Valerie Horton

 

Even though those drags came up clear, Mr Holden suggests people exercise caution such as wearing full-length clothing when going in the water.

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"Jellyfish are really going 'berserk' right now," he said.

Many places are having an unusual number of bluebottles.

"There was a darker-coloured jellyfish found in Mooloolooba incorrectly thought to be an Irukandji, and that caused people to panic.

"The key is education.

"And making people aware of how to treat stings and recognising that there's different kinds of jellyfish."

At the TAG meeting, Prof Seymour once again confirmed that what he found really was 'the real' Irukandji on Fraser Island, to a room of about 30 Fraser Coast key tourism operators.

"They asked questions like how long they live for, whether the stings in the north were worse than here, and asked about possible solutions," he said.

"The quick solution is to make everyone wear stinger suits or close the beaches, but both aren't fantastic for tourism.

"The other option is to get a handle of what's in there and do some quality sampling and research.

"The reaction from the tourism operators was positive.

"They wanted to know what they can do, rather than ignoring it."



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