You will already know if you have read my entire blog, (you have read my entire blog, haven’t you?) That the most venomous creature in the world is the box jellyfish. I told you all about him on September 10, 2009.
Now, I really didn’t want to tell you this, but I have decided I must break my silence. After all, I’d rather you heard it from me than from somebody else.
Some time in October 2009, I would imagine only about six weeks after making my box jellyfish post, I watched a TV programme on the Discovery Channel about killer jellyfish. I think it was called “The Silent Assassin” or something. I was expecting to hear more stuff about the box jellyfish. But instead I heard this……
- A tiny predator the size of a thumbnail.
- Almost impossible to see with the naked eye.
- A sting that leaves no mark on the body.
- Its sting is mild and can even go undetected by the victim.
- Until Irukandji Syndrome hits, typically about 30-40 minutes later.
- Then it becomes “five times more painful than childbirth” according to one victim.
- Two people were killed by it in 2002.
It is now believed to be more venomous than the box jellyfish. MORE VENOMOUS!
So, meet the new most venomous creature in the world, the Irukandji.
Being so small, pictures of the Irukandji are rare, but I decided to rummage through all the underwater images from the coral reef that my son took when he went scuba-diving, in the vain hope I might find one.
I was in luck! I discovered a “school of Irukandji”, if that is the correct collective noun to describe a gang of these things, swimming right there in the reef…..
Yeah, okay, it’s my thumbnail. It’s a silly joke. But unfortunately this tiny creature is serious trouble and certainly no joking matter. The Irukandji can be found in the northern waters of Australia, from Broome all the way round to Fraser Island. Just lately, the Irukandji has hit the news quite regularly….
- Since Christmas, ten people have been rushed to Broome Hospital’s emergency department suffering from the potentially deadly sting.
- ‘World’s best job’ man, Ben Southall, who won the job of caretaker on one of Australia’s tropical islands, was stung by the tiny, lethal jellyfish.
- A 45-year-old Filipino man was stung by an Irukandji jellyfish when he was splashed with seawater while fishing, 25 metres ABOVE the water, from a bulk carrier off north Queensland.
- Irukandji stings are on the increase. From what I have read, I would guess there are easily in excess of 100 Irukandji stings in Australian waters each year.
- The Irukandji is heading south! Just last night on the news, Irukandji expert Dr Jamie Seymour said he would be absolutely shocked if the Irukandji were not at the Sunshine Coast within 5 to 10 years. Oh no! That’s our favourite beach and only an hour or so north of Brisbane.
This really is an Australian Bad Thing, being more venomous than the box jellyfish, and some say it is potentially a bigger threat than the shark. I am not so sure about that because the Irukandji does have a couple of “redeeming features” which do not apply to the other two.
- Although there is no antivenom, there have been successful results with magnesium infusions, an established, safe and inexpensive treatment, in controlling the jellyfish’s lethal venom.
- If the two deaths so far are typical, then it takes a long time for Irukandji Syndrome to kill. The first death took 30 hours and the second victim was in a coma for two weeks before losing his battle against the sting.
On the other hand, the box jellyfish and the shark can both kill in minutes, or even seconds in the case of the shark. Magnesium infusions are of no use to shark attack victims either.
The Irukandji, for the above reasons, will probably not claim many lives, almost 8 years have already passed since the last deaths. But they sure are going to be a big pain.
Despite all of the bad news, please remember that being stung by one of these jellyfish is still very rare. And for some people, like me, almost impossible.
I use the swimming pool. Here’s more about the Irukandji…
Hmm, if that last sentence is true, maybe it’s not the most venomous creature in the world after all.