Deadly, venomous jellyfish are lurking in the waters off the Gold Coast of Australia this week, ready to sting anyone who gets too close. A group called Surf Life Saving Queensland issued a warning Wednesday for beachgoers to stay out of the water after they put out a “stinger drag,” which catches sea creatures so that people know what’s in the water. The drag caught a tiny jellyfish that was later identified as the Irukandji, leading to a warning to stay on land.
According to a local news station, the invasion of the venomous creatures could cause a “collapse” of Queensland tourism. The weather this week in the area calls for temperatures in the high 70’s, 80’s and 90’s Fahrenheit, so swimming would be an ideal activity if it weren’t for the tiny, threatening creatures in the water.
The sting of a Irukandji Jellyfish is excruciating, leading to six to 12 hours of intense pain, nausea, vomiting, cramps, profuse sweating and “feelings of doom,” according to an Australian Broadcasting Corporation interview with jellyfish scientist Lisa Gershman. The stings are so extreme that sometimes victims go into cardiac arrest and die and when they don’t, victims have been known to beg doctors to kill them to get it over with, Gershman says.
All this is delivered by a slimy, brainless, opaque animal about as the nail on your pinky finger. It’s nearly impossible to see them in the water, and their stings are invisible.
The effects of the sting are intense and incessant, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. However, if you get stung, experts advise calling your local emergency number, such as 0-0-0 in Australia or 9-1-1 in the U.S. The travel website, TripsavvyConsider, suggests wearing protective lycra suits when swimming and bringing vinegar to treat stings. Any unexpected pain in waters where Irukandji jellyfish could be should be treated as a potential threat, the site says, and you should stay out of the water for at least 30 minutes to be sure that it’s not.
Also, try to keep in mind that you’ll probably survive. One professor has been stung 11 times, and went to the hospital every time, but survived every time.
While Australia may seem like the land of scary, dangerous creatures, Irukandji jellyfish aren’t exclusive to the land down under. They can inhabit American waters. The ghostly animals have been observed in Europe, Southeast Asia, South America and Hawaii and the Florida Keys.