Thousands stung in jellyfish invasion in Australia's Queensland

Thousands stung in jellyfish invasion in Australia's Queensland

Bluebottle stings are a frequent occurrence and it is not uncommon to hear howls of pain from changing rooms along Australia's eastern beaches during the southern hemisphere's summer.

Fortunately, most of the stings were caused by so-called bluebottle colonies, which are not life threatening.

Stings from Portuguese man o' war are notoriously painful and coastguard association Surf Life Saving said a "whopping" 3,595 people had been stung, although other estimates put that number at more than 5,000.

That number is expected to rise, however, as the coastguard association Surf Life Saving said even more jellyfish are on their way thanks to north easterly winds working in their favour.

"The numbers I have seen published are 25,000 to 45,000 per year for the whole of Australia", Dr Gershwin said.

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On Saturday, 1323 people were stung on the Gold Coast alone.

"People have been hurt as they just walk along the shoreline".

"They get picked up by the wind and blown as long as the wind keeps going or until they hit land and strand on the beaches, so that's when we see them obviously", she said. "Don't pick it up, don't walk on it or you will be stung".

While some scientists have been more careful about linking climate change and jellyfish blooms, given a lack of long-term data so far, most researchers agree that jellyfish populations respond positively to a number of human-induced changes, including pollution, overfishing and warmer water. "All of this takes out their predators and competitors, so they're the 'last men standing, '" said Gershwin. Stings can be painful but are typically not unsafe, though some people can be allergic.

Labelled an "invasion" by local media, the bluebottles have stung both swimmers in shallow water and those who accidentally trod on the creatures while walking on the sand. By 2017, there had only been two recorded fatalities in Queensland, according to the Department of Health there.

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