From the Philippines to Cambodia: Danger Lurks

Box Jellyfish stings from Lazy Beach (Koh Rong) Cambodia

2014 started in the worst possible manner with the report of a box jellyfish fatality in the Philippines.

On 3 January an 8 year old boy swimming with his family on a beach at Malalag Bay in Davao received a fatal sting from what a Government Fisheries Department official described as a box jellyfish. He was pronounced dead 'due to jellyfish poison' at the local medical clinic soon after.

Another report was made on Lonely Planet's Thorntree in late-2013 regarding a sting in Cambodia. While the incident occurred in 2011, the author tipsystatistic wrote the post and included photos as a warning knowing that the danger remains.

The tragedies and near-tragedies that are dotted throughout this blog are just the tip of the iceberg. The box jellyfish that lurk under the water throughout South-East Asia are not about to melt away with global warming - their numbers are predicted to increase.
From the north coast of tropical Australia, through Indonesia and the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, and places beyond, box jellyfish are taking their toll on innocent victims.

Finding out about serious stings is not an easy task. It seems that many go unreported. If not for individuals reporting stings through social media and to the news media, or others following up with hospitals and authorities, the situation would be impossible to document.

Further Reading:
Informing people of this problem has perhaps gone some way in decreasing sting numbers. This blog and others like it, greater interest through the media plus government and community action have hopefully gone some way in preventing stings.

The good work that has occurred in some places needs to continue. To become complacent if there has not been a reported sting for some time would be dangerous. Everyone that has contributed to raising awareness and actively working to protect water-users must continue the job. 

Excerpts from tipsystatistic's Thorntree post follow:

"Was in Cambodia with my brother and sister 2 years ago (2011).
Took a 2 hour boat ride from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong (Lazy Beach).

Some people at the bungalows recommended checking out a deserted beach about 30 min walk away. The beach was indeed beautiful, the visibility was good and I scanned the water as we walked down, looking for marine life. Partly because I was hoping to see a ray, but also specifically looking for jellyfish.  We walked a good mile down the beach and jumped in.

The three of us were relaxing and talking in a circle, in chest deep water. After 10 minutes my sister started screaming bloody murder and ran out of the water, my first thought was "shark", but I didn't see anything in the water.  We all hustled to shore and by the time we got there I was thinking "Jellyfish".  She collapsed in tears screaming and I started tearing off clear tentacles stuck to both ankles, both knees and both wrists (they look like clear rice noodles). You could feel them ripping out like a zipper.

She was beside herself with pain for the better part of an hour rolling around on the beach.  A man who lived nearby radioed for a boat, so we decided to wait. The boat never came, but an older man who also lived nearby cam to us and took one look at her and hurried off. He returned shortly with a bucket of water and the bark of some tree. He mashed the treebark up into the water and it turned red. The folk remedy seemed to provide relief and she was back to her normal self.

The wounds first appeared as large welts, and then the next day into red cross hatched red scars. She still has some scars 3 years later, but they will probably be gone in a few more.

Not sure if it was a box jelly, but it was NASTY and we couldn't see the jellyfish it in clear water."

Reading the now familiar chain of events that make up the story and seeing the photos, this girl was definitely stung by a box jellyfish. No doubt.
Please take care this year. Ask about jellyfish sightings, take a bottle of vinegar to the beach, don't run and dive but walk slowly and vigilantly into the water, wear a lycra suit to offer 100% protection.

The girl in Cambodia was lucky; sadly, a young boy in the Philippines was not.


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