A skipper on a charter boat speculated that one of her guests may have been stung by a sea wasp (above), a type of venomous box jellyfish with a particularly strong sting. (Photo: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Over the past week, beachgoers have reported getting serious jellyfish stings at Norman Island and The Baths National Park. At least one incident has led to an emergency room visit.

Virgin Islands Search and Rescue personnel responded to one emergency call at The Baths, and assisted over the phone while another person was transported to West End via their own boat, confirmed Sergio Dantas, a representative for the Tortola crew. An ambulance met that person when they arrived on the island, Mr. Dantas said.

On Monday, purple flags flew over The Baths, which means a marine life warning had been issued. By Tuesday, however, the flags were down.

Liz Day, a skipper at Dream Yacht Charter, said one of her guests was stung at the Caves at Norman on Saturday. The jellyfish, she said, had a small body with long tentacles and was floating close to the surface — all of which led her to believe it was a sea wasp.

That species of venomous box jellyfish can produce a very powerful, and occasionally fatal, sting. It is most commonly found off the northern coast of Australia, and its tentacles can reach up to 10 feet long.

“This is the first time I have had a guest that got stung by any jellyfish other than the small annoying ones you can’t see,” Ms. Day told the Beacon. “I am seeing more in the last week.”

Jellyfish increase

Anne Camuti Hill also witnessed a serious run-in with jellyfish over the weekend.

“Please stay out of the water on Norman Island. We are currently assisting the second person today with serious stings,” she wrote on Facebook on Sunday. “Our charter guest is an ER physician who has been able to help. I don’t know what would happen if he wasn’t here.”

Ms. Hill said she also believed the jellyfish they encountered were sea wasps, and that one man who was stung suffered from anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction that can be life threatening.

Mark Street, the government’s head lifeguard, said the Virgin Islands sees many types of jellyfish, and that population sizes tend to increase during summer months.

“It’s the season: It’s not unusual,” he said. “There are actually probably less incidents [this year] because there are less tourists at the moment.”

What to do if stung

Treatment for jellyfish stings depends on several factors, including the type of jellyfish, the severity of the sting, and the victim’s reaction to it.

According to the Mayo Clinic, most jellyfish stings can be treated by rinsing the area with vinegar, plucking visible tentacles with fine tweezers, and soaking the skin in hot water (about 110 to 113 degrees Fahrenheit).

However, someone with a severe reaction to a jellyfish sting may need CPR, life support or — if the sting is from a box jellyfish like the sea wasp — antivenin medication, according to the clinic.

In the event of a serious sting, beachgoers can contact Virgin Islands Search and Rescue by dialling SOS (767) or land-based responders by dialling 911.


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