• Anne Curtis lucky tobe alive

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    KAPAMILYA star Anne Curtis of “Dyesebel” fame is lucky to be alive because the jellyfish that stung her in Batangas happens to be one of the most poisonous creatures on earth.

    The box jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri) or sea wasp is normally found in northern Australia but this deadly critter also lurks in the waters of the Indo-Pacific region near Papau New Guinea, Vietnam and the Philippines.

    Of the 50 species known, the Australian box jellyfish is the largest. It is so-named because its box-shaped body has four distinct sides. Because of this, it is also called the bell or cube-shaped jellyfish.

    Worldwide, box jellyfish are said to be responsible for over a hundred deaths yearly. In the Philippines, about 20 to 40 people are killed every year, according to the U.S. National Science Foundation. However, the number of deaths is believed to be higher since not all cases are reported.

    Contrary to popular belief, jellyfish do not attack people. They feed on small fish and shrimp. Swimmers are stung when they accidentally touch or step on the jellyfish’s tentacles. Because it is transparent and has a pale blue color, the box jellyfish is almost invisible to swimmers. This is the reason why many people who were stung or killed in the past never knew what hit them.

    There are 15 tentacles in every corner of the box jellyfish’s body. These tentacles can reach a distance of 10 feet and many swimmers are stung without even seeing the jellyfish.

    The tentacles are covered with cnidocysts that have tiny darts and enough paralyzing poison to affect the heart, nerves and skin. When the dart pierces the skin, the toxin enters the body and may cause a dangerous rise in blood pressure. It can make the heart stop, cause severe pain and shock, and kill a person in minutes. Death may also occur from drowning following the loss of consciousness.

    The body’s reaction to the sting depends on several factors—the size of the jellyfish, the number of tentacles that touch the body, the victim’s size, and the sensitivity of the skin. Children are more vulnerable to the effects of the venom and being stung on the chest is more dangerous than getting stung on the ankle.

    The tentacles often stick tightly to the skin and continue to release venom if they are not removed. The ugly scars from the sting of the box jellyfish are the result of necrosis or the death of body tissue.

    To remove remaining tentacles that stick to the skin, doctors advise washing the area with seawater. Don’t use freshwater since this may trigger the release of more venom. Don’t touch the tentacles with your hands but use a credit card or similar object to brush them away. Using a towel or clothes to remove tentacles is a bad idea since this will spread the venom.

    To deactivate the remaining stingers, medical experts at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota said it’s best to pour or soak the area in vinegar for at least 30 seconds. For pain and irritation, soak the area in hot water for 20 minutes after applying vinegar. Calamine lotion may help relieve itching.

    Mayo Clinic doctors said more serious cases require the use of antivenin to counteract the effects of the toxin. This should be given in minutes to stop pain and reduce scarring. Bring the patient to the nearest hospital fast.

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