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January 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 32, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Terror of the Irukandji

is a tiny invisible jellyfish the most lethal?

from the January, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Deadly jellyfish stings are being touted as a possible cause of the mystery deaths of two French tourists snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef in November. It's believed they suffered heart attacks, but Sydney cardiologist Dr. Ross Walker has speculated an Irukandji jellyfish could be to blame, because it was unlikely two people would die so close together.

The Irukandji may become more populous, because while sea turtles feed on them, they are an endangered species thanks to fishing and egg gathering.

In March 2002, an American tourist was snorkeling near Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays when he received a tiny sting. He couldn't see anything that might have caused it. After some minutes a headache set in and he retreated back to the boat. After another ten minutes the pain began to spread, with severe muscle cramps until he could no longer control his movements. Airlifted to a hospital, the doctors were almost helpless in what they could do for him. There is no antivenom for the Irukandji syndrome. They could only give him powerful painkillers to help alleviate the agony, but he 'continually climbed the stairs of pain.' Within two weeks, he was dead from a brain hemorrhage. He had been killed by a tiny, almost invisible jellyfish weighing just a few grams....


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