Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Box jelly fish warning for Thailand waters

This post is about a new warning for Thai waters; box jelly fish

Recently the waters surrounding Thailand have a new guest, the box jelly fish. Please follow this link to an article I wrote about box jelly fish in 2012 on my Koh Samui info and weather blog.

Previously it was thought that the box jelly fish only was around in Australian waters but unfortunately more and more proof shows up that the box jelly fish are on the migration path around various parts of the Asia pacific region.
My post is not about creating panic but more to raise the awareness levels of people visiting Thailand and simply to carry a bottle of vinegar when visiting the Thai beaches, since this is your first line of defense.

Asia Pacific's Diver Alert Network (aka DAN) John Lippmann, the CEO for the Asia Pacific region has been warning and talking about their presence for at least 5 or more years already and he even had footage of a box jelly fish being filmed around Koh Tao during a "First Aid for Hazardous Marine Life Injuries" presentation he gave in Koh Samui around 5 years ago. If this topic has your interest, it is also a course provided by DAN.

During one of my IDC's, back in 2003, an unfortunate incident happened during an the Open Water part of the IDC, off Chaweng Beach when one of my students got stung by a box jelly fish.

The student in question was escorted out of the water and brought to a local Chaweng hospital. It wasn't until a few months later, when both the diver in question and myself had a talk with John Lippmann, who was visiting Samui at that occasion for a lecture, that we could come close to an answer of what had stung my student. John asked to see the scars and asked permission to take some pictures for identification by experts. A few weeks later proof came back and the experts confirmed the scars as being caused by box jelly fish. His scars look very similar to the scars on the pictures below.

The main reason for writing this specific post however, is a story that happened to a very young boy, aged 4, who was stung by a box jelly fish in Thai waters, Koh Mak, south of Koh Chang in December 2007.

His father wrote an article at the Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree forum with a direct link to the article here. I strongly suggest you read the article since it shows how lucky the boy is in actually having survived the attack.

He spend 3 days in Trat hospital and while fine now will have permanent scarring over his legs.

This picture shows the effects the day after the attack. His leg is clearly swollen

This is a picture 3 weeks later. The scars shown in the picture will most likely be life long.

(Please note that the pics are copyrighted and can not be reused, republished or otherwise used in the public or private domain without the boy's father permission as I’m sure you can appreciate. Please contact me if you want to use the pictures.)

The article in question has reactions from other participants in the Thorn Tree forum and more articles dealing with the same issue can be found here and here.

Other very useful information regarding box jelly fish can be found in this article on Thailandguru.

Immediate solutions for protecting yourself are simple and basic, you can wear a full body suit, they come in 1 mm thin versions and always have vinegar with you if you visit a beach.

Thanks to Andrew Jones for helping out with this article.

To complete this article, you may consider visiting the link on the picture below, the link will lead you to children sized stinger suits;



Silvia said...

Hi Camille,

I discovered your blog as I was searching for facts about box jellyfish at Koh Samui.

Found six deaths, caused by box jellyfish, and some persons get injured
- all since 1999 around thailand waters.

We would like to spend our summer holidays 2010 at Koh Samui/Thongtakian beach. Looks like a wonderful place, but now we're worried, especially about our three children. No problem to take vinegar and a plastic card with our beach luggage, but how real is the danger to get stung?

Actually there're no more informations, what's going on to care for tourists, how big the box jellyfish population is.

We would be very thankful, if you could give us an overview. I made a padi open water diving licence myself , years ago on maledives, and think you're the best adress to judge the situation.

Best regards, Silvia

Camille Lemmens said...

Hi Silvia,

Thanks for your mail. I can understand your concern regarding box jellyfish being around in Thai waters, but as I already stated in my blog entries, it's not something that should stop you from visiting Thai beaches. Simple precautions like having vinegar available and skin suits should help and with all due respect, over a 10 year period, 6 people that died compared to the amount of people that used or were present at those beaches is rather small. Nonetheless, you obviously and understandably don't want your children to be part of those statistics, so the precautions will help.
The likelihood to get stung is rather marginal in my opinion, my children swim on a regular base on Choengmon beach and in all the 10 years that I dive around Samui and Koh Tao or Thailand in general, in thousands of dives, it turned out that one of my students actually was stung by a box jellyfish on Chaweng Beach.

Hope this information helps but let me know if you have any further questions.

jorow said...

Hi Everybody

My family and I were swimming in 1 meter water 5 meters from the beach on Koh Wai in march 2010, when daughter met a box jellyfish face to face. Fortunately she saw it before swimming into it and called me over. I recognised it straight away as a boxjelly, and we all spent about in 10 minutes in awe looking closely at it with our masks and snorkels.

I have since spent a fair amount of time researching these creatures and informing various authorities of our sighting. Box jellies are definitely in Thai waters and many other Asian countries and many people have been stung of which many have died, if you include the locals!!!!!!! The Thais don't want to admit to the deaths - think what it would do for turism.

Again I'm writing this not to frighten - but to help people to be aware - wear a STINGER SUIT or wetsuit and have vinegar on hand.

Tight fitting thin nylon STINGER SUITS are specially designed by Australiens to protect agains box jelly stings. They can be bought over the internet for about 80 US dolars. They also protect against sunburn whilst snorkelling.

I will definitely go back and would like to see a boxjelly again, but this time I will be wearing a stingersuit, have my underwater camera with me and keep i bit more distance :-)

You can google my name in Denmark if you wish to contact me.

Good hunting.

John Row, psychologist, Denmark

Camille said...

Hi John,

Thanks for your informative comment. Good advice indeed bout the Stinger suits!

I've forwarded your account to John Lippmann at DAN AP.

Hope you enjoy your next trip to Thailand!