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A reader took this and the other photos at Kata beach on Tuesday. Beach lifeguards say that the number of bluebottles is well down on the infestation at Nai Harn on Monday.

Phuket Beach Closed as Bluebottles Infest the Surf

Monday, May 28, 2012
UPDATE

There were reports of bluebottles on two Phuket beaches on Tuesday as swimmers returned in numbers following heavy rain. But there were fewer bluebottles and they were smaller than at Nai Harn on Monday, a lifeguard spokesperson said. The reader who took these photos said: ''I counted more than 50 on the beach and many more washing up, most very small but a few bigger than I have ever seen on Phuket. Also counted 13 on the beach at Nai Harn.''

Original Report

PHUKET: Lifeguards on their first day back on Phuket's beaches in seven weeks have closed the popular southern Phuket beach of Nai Harn because of big waves and a plague of bluebottles.

The jellyfish-like creatures have a single tentacle and a powerful sting. Also known as the Portuguese man o' war, the bluebottle has no means of propulsion and so is carried with prevailing tides.

A few have been sighted off Phuket in the past but never in large numbers. Unlike jellyfish, a bluebottle is not actually a single creature, but a colonial organism made up of many minute individuals called zooids.

Lifeguards hope to reopen the beach as soon as the plague has been carried away by the tide. No other beaches have been affected.

Marine biologists from the Phuket Marine Biology Centre have been contacted by the Nai Harn lifeguards and should be able to determine how soon the beach can be reopened.

The centre monitors jellyfish around the region. Phuket beaches do occasionally suffer from infestations and jellyfish are prevalent in surrounding waters to the north and south.

The dangerous and potentially deadly box jellyfish has been confirmed in sightings in Malaysia and occasionally in Krabi, but not so far on Phuket's popular west coast holiday beaches, which are exposed to strong tides at this time of the year.

Vinegar is considered to be the best treatment for jellyfish stings, particularly the box jellyfish, and first aid kits along the Andaman coast and on Phuket should include vinegar.

However, vinegar is not recommended for treating bluebottle stings.

After much research and public education from the Ministry of Public Health's Bureau of Epidemiology, the small island of Koh Mak in Trat province, recently became the first resort area in Thailand - if not in all of South-East Asia - to install life-saving first aid stations across all beaches in a bid to save the lives of anyone stung by box jellyfish.

Dr Potjaman Siriarayapon from the Bureau of Epidemiology; Dr Lakkana Thaikruea from the Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University; and Dr Somchai Bussarawit the Director of the National History Museum in Bangkok, worked in co-operation with Koh Mak tourism industry leaders to create a system of strategically positioned first aid vinegar stations.

Advocates of preparedness say the system is simple and cheap. They hope it protects the island's reputation as a safe tourist resort by providing peace of mind to visitors.

It is also expected to inspire and motivate other popular tourist and non-tourist beach areas to implement similar protection - including on Koh Chang, Koh Samet, Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan, Railay, Krabi, Koh Lanta and Phuket.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Vinegar is indeed the best treatment for jellyfish stings but as you state in the article the Bluebottles are not jellyfish.

Vinegar should NOT be applied to Bluebottle stings as it increases toxin delivery and worsens symptoms of stings from the nematocysts of this species.

Salt water, not fresh should be used to wash the affected area followed up if possible with hot water (fresh hot water is OK) at a temperature around 45 degrees C.

Dilute alcohol as can be found in most first aid kits can also be effective.

Posted by soupdragon on May 28, 2012 13:53

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I notice all my comments re my Box Jelly Fish sting have disapeared from all articles.
No! Vinegar does nothing for a boxie sting, neither does tropical local anesthetics cream. I had to use an anesthetic injection to block the pain which ragged for three days and four nights. Don't believ the nocense about vinegar for boxies, it is a very false hope. Dr Lisa-ann Gershwin has my photos and my details.
Stop trying to guild the Phuket safety lily?
Anywhere can be dangerous.

Posted by Graham on May 28, 2012 16:44

Editor Comment:

The experts - including Dr Dr Lisa-ann Gershwin - say vinegar is the treatment for a boxie sting. Bluebottle stings do not respond to vinegar. Boxie stings do respond to vinegar. Vinegar, though, does not dull the pain. It reduces the toxicity and prevents it spreading . . . in other words, saves your life.

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Ed, found the article though, here at Phuket Jellyfish Alert:
http://phuketwan.com/tourism/phuket-jellyfish-alert-capture-diver-stung/
(Don't worry its your own PW article you can print the link).
Just be aware Boxies are out there.

Posted by Graham on May 28, 2012 17:23

Editor Comment:

As the first paragraph in that article says, Update: fishermen at Yacht Haven reported capturing jellyfish in stake traps but they were not box jellyfish.

The article is from 2008. This is 2012. . If there was cause for alarm, the marine biologists - who continue to do regular surveys - would let us know. Pointless scaring people, Graham.

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Where I come from in England, a bluebottle is a large housefly, dark blue in colour. It does not sting.

Posted by Firecat on May 28, 2012 17:37

Editor Comment:

You must miss the fun the rest of the world has with snakes, spiders, sharks and other marine creatures, Firecat.

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HoT water will take away the pain of a box & blue bottle jelly fish sting (hot shower is perfect). pure honey will nutralise the welts of the sting.

Posted by danny on May 28, 2012 20:20

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I was stung many years ago by one of these nasty things, and let me tell you, you never forget the pain. If there are notices at the beach advising it is closed, heed them.

Posted by agogohome on May 28, 2012 22:34

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I just went for a run on Nai Harn beach. I counted 7 blue bottles, a couple of them still being washed around in the shallow surf. I mentioned it to one of the guards and he said that yesterday one girl was treated by them after being stung by one.

Posted by Joe on May 29, 2012 09:20

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"so far all other beaches remain open and unaffected."

Counted over 50 washed up on Kata Beach today.

Posted by Joe on May 29, 2012 14:05

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I think what needs to be made clear here is that the term 'box jellyfish' refers to several types of cubozoans including the Chirodropids - Chironex (cousin of the Aussie killer and believed responsible for the deaths in Thailand) and Chiropsoides Buitendijki (this species IS known to be present on Phuket, it IS being caught in stake traps on the east coat of the island and many sit in sample jars at the PMBC and it has previously been held responsible for human fatalities in the region though the situation in Thailand is unknown).

Vinegar IS to be applied to box jellyfish stings to neutralise the stinging but there is no pain relief and death can still occur if envenomation substantial enough.

For bluebottles vinegar must NOT be used! Immersing in hot water or a cold pack is recommended.

First aid stations dispensing vinegar must make this point abundantly clear through proper signage.

Posted by Andrew on May 29, 2012 18:52

Editor Comment:

Andrew, As you know, the 'mini-'boxies'' found on Phuket's east coast are much, much smaller and there's still no conclusive evidence, after a couple of years of study, that they share any of the toxic characteristics of their larger cousins. Readers with an interest in learning more should delve into the many articles on jellyfish on Phuketwan. The situation in Thailand is as known as can be. There have been rare fatalities and no indication that Phuket's beaches are ''boxie'' territory. The roads are far more dangerous.

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"There were no reports of bluebottles on any Phuket beaches on Tuesday as swimmers returned in numbers following heavy rain, a lifeguard spokesperson said."

Lol. I showed several bluebottles to guards on Nai Harn and Kata today (Tuesday)

Posted by Joe on May 29, 2012 19:34

Editor Comment:

Seems the lifeguards need to understand the importance of quick updates. Unless swimmers get accurate information quickly (via Phuketwan or other sources), they could be placed in unnecessary danger. They have the reasonable excuse of only being back on the beaches since Monday.

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Indeed, Buitendijki is smaller but another box jellyfish that has also caused death called Irukandji measures 10mm and it is also present in the region. I don't state this to sensationalise, it is a fact. There is no evidence of deaths from these in Phuket.

True there is 'still no conclusive evidence' however there has not been years of study and no-one knows if they share toxic characteristics of larger Chironex. The PMBC does not have this specialised expertise. Either one becomes the guinea pig or expensive pharmaceutical tests involving pigs are conducted under strict controls at somewhere like a university medical facility. To my knowledge this has never been done.

However, it is assumed that Chironex is more likely to be responsible for the deaths in Thailand.

Phuketwan is right that with limited local resources and knowledge periodically assisted by a team of international experts, as much is known about the situation as possible - there is still a very long way to go.

And yes 'there have been rare fatalities' with no obvious indication that Chironex exists at Phuket's popular beaches.

The comments drifted to box jellyfish and I took the opportunity to make the distinction and emphasise the different approaches to first aid in dealing with the issue in the article, bluebottles.

Cheers

Posted by andrew on May 30, 2012 04:56

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I've been stung my jellyfish twice at Nai Harn. The worst one left really painful welts about 6 inches long that were uncomfortable for several days and still showed a month or so later. It's certainly enough to ruin a family holiday if a kid gets stung - assuming the kids make it to the beach past the pack of marauding stray dogs that patrol the shoreline, that is.

Posted by Barry on June 4, 2012 12:49


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