New year kicks off with deadly stinger surge
TWO more suspected Irukandji stings at the weekend make eight in just a fortnight.
A teenage boy and an adult woman are the latest victims of stings in Fraser Island waters.
The pair, who are related, were stung by the world's deadliest jellyfish while swimming on the western side of the island on Saturday.
The day before, two men were also hospitalised after they were stung.
The other four cases occurred late December.
The local stinger surge now means more than a third of Irukandji-related hospitalisations this stinger season in Queensland happened in local waters.
This is according to the Australian Marine Stinger Advisory Service.
AMSAS director Dr Lisa-ann Gershwin said the increase of stinger cases was not evidence of Irukandji suddenly moving further south.
She said instead, the jellyfish species was developing a more prominent presence this season in an area where they already lived and had done so for a long period of time.
She said the fact that Irukandji had been found as far south Irukandji is only naturally found in the tropics, she cited to the Chronicle discovery of Irukandji as far south as Victoria.
"They have been at Fraser Island for hundreds of years," Dr Gershwin said.
"Several things that are going on could be responsible for the increase in stings, including searing heat and onshore winds.
"The annual average of stings is 10 per year in the state but this year we are already 22.
"It's a very serious year."
With incidents often reported as being "suspected" Irukandji stings, Dr Gershwin said this meant a sting had not been examined by a doctor but an Irukandji was likely the culprit.
"A very, very high percentage of those go on to be confirmed as actual Irukandji," she said. "I think the safest thing people should do is wear a stinger suit, not just because of the jellyfish but also to protect from the sun.
"I wear mine every time I go to the beach."
Surf Life Saving Queensland lifeguards are currently making daily trips to the island to conduct drags on its western side.
They have also been educating tourists about the presence of Irukandji and handing out information pamphlets.
Life saving service co-ordinator Julie DavisJulie Davis said five jellyfish specimens of interest had been found since December 27 as a result of the drags. She said many of the people spoken to by the group on the island had chosen to swim in stinger suits which were readily available for purchase.
"The incidents over the past two weeks have been well publicised and many people are aware of the jellyfish presence," Mrs Davis said.
"A lot of the people who go to Fraser regularly tend to choose to stick with swimming in the freshwater creeks."