A 46-YEAR-OLD Australian woman is in a stablecondition in hospital after an apparent Irukandji jellyfish stingon the Great Barrier Reef. An ambulance spokeswoman said the tourist was stung at Green Island, 27km offshorefrom Cairns, and was taken by Queensland Rescuehelicopter to Cairns Base Hospital. A Cairns Base Hospital nurse manager saidthe woman was receiving pain relief and was being closely monitored.
Irukandji jellyfish aresmall and extremely venomous jellyfish that are found mostly near Australia, and which cause symptoms collectively known as Irukandji syndrome. There are two knownspecies, Carukia barnesi and the recently discovered Malo kingi. Like some other jellyfishes, the Irukandjihave stingers (nematocysts) not only on their tentacles (on which thestingers are arranged in clusters that look similar to drops of water), butalso on the bell. In addition, the venom is injected only from the tip of thestinger (nematocyst)rather than the entire length. This is why the initial sting is mild and thereis a delayed reaction as the venom exerts its effects.
Irukandji syndrome isproduced by a very small amount of venom and includes severe pains at various parts of the body (typically excruciatingmuscle cramps in the arms and legs, severe pain in the back and kidneys, and a burningsensation of the skin and face), headaches, nausea, restlessness, sweating,vomiting, high heart rate and blood pressure.
When properlytreated, a single sting is normally not fatal, but two people in Australia arebelieved to have died from Irukandji stings in 2002, greatly increasing publicawareness of Irukandji syndrome. It is unknown how many other deaths fromIrukandji syndrome have been wrongly attributed to other causes.
More information on this jellyfish can be obtained at www.irukandjijellyfish.com.