Thai Marine Scientist In Australia During Box Jellyfish Drama
Dr Somchai Bussarawit managed the Thai government's premier marine reseach facility that also has 5 satellite centres around the country and has been leading Thailand's scientific efforts since the issue of the Box Jellyfish menace rose to prominence in late 2008.
Scheduled to visit Box Jellyfish and Irukandji hot spots at the height of the season while involved in detailed scientific study, practical experience and broad discussions; Dr Somchai began his tour visiting the Australian Venom Research Unit (http://www.avru.org.au/) located in the University of Melbourne where Director Dr Ken Winkel and Divers Alert Network Asia Pacific (http://www.danasiapacific.org/) Exec. Director Mr John Lippmann covered issues relating to safety, education and research. He had intensive taxonomic training with Dr Lisa-ann Gershwin (National Marine Stinger Advisor in Australia) and a look at how Australia approaches medical care and treatment with Dr Peter Fenner (http://www.marine-medic.com.au/) in Mackay before joining Manager of Uninet Enclosure Systems (http://www.uninet.com.au/), Kim Moss, for some practical fieldwork in the Cairns/Port Douglas region.
While there was little sign of Irukandji, Dr Somchai caught his first Chironex fleckeri Box Jellyfish that he proudly displays in the embedded photo (photo by Kim Moss) then proceeded to capture numerous others as specimens for the PMBC.
During Dr Somchai's visit a 10 year old girl was stung by a Chironex fleckeri near Gladstone (the southern most point where they are thought to inhabit on the eastern Queensland coast) though strangely 23km upriver on the Caliope River. She was badly stung and went into cardiac and respiratory arrest. Quick thinkers at the camp ground doused her with vinegar and she was rushed to meet an ambulance, her parents performing CPR along the way. In an induced coma for several days the girl barely and very luckily survived.
Dr Somchai's eventful trip was well received by all concerned and the various centres across Thailand are benefitting from his experience and implementing plans and procedures to better understand and manage Thailand's Chironex-type Box Jellyfish.
In March several senior Thailand medical officials involved in the area of epidemiology and active in researching their country's Box Jellyfish situation will also visit Australia courtesy of the Australian government to meet with experts and similarly transfer this knowledge to their country's experience.