Irukandji jellyfish sting won't put Far North visitor off
A MELBOURNE woman has told of the excruciating pain she endured after being stung by the tiny but potentially deadly irukandji jellyfish in Cairns.
Emily Treeby, 18, was swimming inside the stinger nets at Trinity Beach on Monday when she felt a sting on her wrist.
"At first I thought it might have been sea lice, but it became a bit more painful," she said yesterday from her hospital bed.
After life guards poured vinegar on the wound and applied ice to her arm, the pain subsided until she returned to her hotel, and the irukandji syndrome took hold.
"Then I had excruciating pain in my lower back and just in a matter of minutes (the pain) went from a level one to a nine," she said.
She received doses of morphine and magnesium and was rushed to Cairns Base Hospital with shortness of breath and severe aches and pains.
"It was pretty terrifying. It all happened so quickly,'' she said.
The irukandji jellyfish measures about 2.5cm, meaning it can easily slip through stinger nets, which are installed to protect swimmers from the bigger box jellyfish.
Ms Treeby said she was aware of the risk of marine stingers, having been stung on the cheek by a bluebottle jellyfish nine years ago while swimming off the Great Barrier Reef.
"I thought I'd had my bad luck," she said.
Mum Melinda praised the work of the life guards, paramedics and hospital staff who provided care for her daughter.
"It was definitely one of the scariest things I've ever experienced as a mum," she said.
But despite having two encounters with marine stingers in their three visits to the Far North, the Treeby family said they would happily return.
"We love it here. We know locals don't swim, and it's a decision we made because the beaches are so beautiful, but we won't be doing that again," Mrs Treeby said.
Life guards will today monitor conditions before deciding whether to re-open beaches between Ellis Beach and Trinity Beach that have been closed since Monday.
Surf Life Saving Queensland North Queensland regional manager Col Sparkes urged swimmers to wear protective clothing.
"The nets are there for box jellyfish, and unfortunately a couple of days a year the irukandji present themselves," he said.
James Cook University marine biologist Professor Mike Kingsford, the head of the School of Marine and Tropical Biology, said researchers were still trying to determine how conditions drove jellyfish production.
"There's certainly a lot of great anecdotes of onshore winds being quite important," he said.
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Lesson learned: Emily Treeby recovers at Cairns Base Hospital after being stung by an irukandji. Picture: BRENDAN FRANCIS