Koh Lanta Stings Underline Complacency
Three recent sting incidents on Koh Lanta in Thailand's southern Andaman Sea region highlight the need for tourists and locals and authorities not to become complacent. Box jellyfish have existed in Thailand's seas for a long time - they are not going away and the threat of getting stung will continue.
If not for the heroics of distraught and desperate parents in dealing with their young son's severe life-threatening sting the boy would have died. No Doubt. His stings were extreme and without question delivered by a large multi-tentacle box jellyfish. Victims with less severe stings have not survived.
The calm and correct response from the boy's father, an emergency services professional, who rapidly applied CPR and his mother who gathered vinegar from totally unprepared beachside restaurants saved his life. A life that for a few minutes was gone without breathing or a pulse.
Once stabilised, the boy and his traumatised family had to endure a nightmare succession of bureaucratic blunders involving insurance demands at a number of medical facilities as they fought to get proper treatment for their child's appalling injuries.
The family discovered that another child had been stung that day and was also being treated in hospital. No one knows if this child's outcome was positive or not. Also a French national was treated in the Bangkok Hospital Phuket after being stung on Koh Lanta. The male victim was described by the hospital as being ".. paralyzed, lost his conscious and stop breathing.'
It's unknown how often stings happen. It's unlikely locals report incidents; it's unclear if victims/families/witnesses of a range of nationalities report or log their story on social media if they use it; it's possible that busy, low-resourced regional medical facilities' records are not shared with authorities monitoring national data.
There are apparently some warning signs and vinegar stations on a few of Koh Lanta's beaches but not all. Like most of Thailand only a handful of locations are properly prepared and equipped for an emergency even though the threat of a box jellyfish sting is widespread.
Just because a beach is not signed does not mean there is not a danger. While the sun is shining, the water glistening, tourists are swimming and locals are smiling, it does not mean there is not a risk. It is easy as a tourist to drop your guard when lazing without a care on a tropical beach. It is easy as a local to ignore what is not a common occurrence and think everything will be alright. 'No problem' is easy to say.
But like Russian roulette, sooner or later, the shot will fire. There will be a victim. This is a fact. It is playing out time and time again on Thailand's beaches. Innocent, unsuspecting swimmers coming into contact with the world's most venomous animal.
The key is for everyone to be aware and prepared. Do not be complacent. Ever. Simple.
1. CALL FOR HELP - get someone else to contact the hospital or doctor or ambulance service
2. TREAT THE VICTIM - use CPR if needed to keep the victim alive if not breathing and/or no pulse
3. TREAT THE STING - apply vinegar by pouring on sting area for 30-60 seconds
4. TRANSPORT - get the victim to hospital or the doctor as soon as possible