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SLSQ ramps up safety advice following stinger capture at Fraser Island

Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) is urging beachgoers at Fraser Island to be extra vigilant about their personal safety following the capture of a suspected Irukandji on the western side of the island last Friday night (January 6).

Surf lifesavers conducted extensive stinger drags on Saturday morning, which did not capture any specimens, but SLSQ has been made aware of a capture on Friday night by James Cook University Associate Professor Jamie Seymour.

While the stinger requires further testing before a definitive identification can be made, SLSQ chief operating officer George Hill ESM said the finding was a concern and one which warranted a higher alert when it comes to the health and safety of beachgoers.

“While we don’t know for certain what type of stinger was found by Mr Seymour, until advised or proven otherwise, we’ll be working under the assumption that dangerous tropical Irukandji are present in the waters off Fraser Island,” he said.

“With that in mind, we’re urging people to be extra vigilant about their personal safety and stay out of the water entirely on that western side of the island while conditions are hot and humid, and even more so while there are northerly winds which often leads to an influx in marine stingers.

“If anyone is stung on Fraser Island they should douse the area with vinegar as soon as possible and immediately call triple zero to seek emergency medical assistance,” he said.

Surf lifesavers dragged the area on Saturday morning following a spate of serious stings in recent weeks, resulting in at least ten people being hospitalised.

While saying it was important for beachgoers to put safety first at all times, Mr Hill said he didn’t want to cause widespread panic, noting that all stings so far had been confined to the western side of the island.

“The stings have been clumped around a relatively small pocket of the island, in the calmer waters of that western side. A lot of stings have been near river mouths, estuaries or otherwise away from the bigger surf,” he said.

“We don’t want to cause widespread panic, but it is really important for people to exercise caution and put safety first at all times,” he said.

SLSQ will work closely with Queensland Parks and Wildlife to conduct an aquatic safety audit of the area, reviewing safety signage and vinegar treatment stations while also updating information used by boating and tourism industries for Fraser Island and Volunteer Marine Rescue.

In addition, Mr Hill said the organisation would establish a marine stinger database on the Island to help determine if a lifeguard presence is required on the Island during peak summer months.

Stinger safety tips:

• Wear protective clothing (wet suit or Lycra body suit), to reduce exposure to potential stings;
• Protect your face and avoid putting your head underwater at high-risk locations;
• In the absence of a full Lycra suit, wear other protective clothing such as long pants tucked into socks; and
• Enter water slowly as marine stingers will often swim away from people given the opportunity and time.

Treatment:

1. Remove casualty from the water if safe to do so
2. Treat using DRSABCD first aid method
3. Call for help – dial triple zero (000) for medical assistance
4. Promptly administer CPR if required
5. Treat the sting – douse the area liberally with vinegar for at least 30 seconds
6. Monitor the casualty and seek further medical assistance if available

Note: Because the symptoms of Irukandji Syndrome may take time to appear following a sting, all tropical jellyfish stings should be doused with vinegar and the casualty should remain out of the water, in a safe location with someone to monitor them, for at least 45 minutes, as the casualty may appear stable initially before the onset of symptoms.

Photos thanks to Valerie Horton.

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