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Dept goes all out to raise awareness on jellyfish sting
Published on: Friday, January 22, 2016

Kota Kinabalu: The number of beach goers getting stung by jellyfish is actually higher than reported and the authorities are now going all out to raise public awareness.

State Senior Deputy Director of the Department of Fisheries, Dr Ahemad Sade, revealed that there were 16 cases but most went unreported. These cases include three that happened along the beach areas in Tg Aru between January 9 and 17.

No fatalities were reported in the State.

"Actually it's more than just the three that were reported. To our knowledge there were 16 cases but most were not reported," said Dr Ahemad after leading department staff in distributing pamphlets to beach goers in Tg Aru.

Three cases were reported in just over a week, all of them involving children. The first happened on January 9 when two boys aged 9 and 12 were stung while swimming in Tg Aru beach. The older boy was reported to have sustained facial injuries while his friend was stung on the leg.

Several days later, a 12-year-old boy sustained injuries on his knee after being stung. The third case happened on January 17 when a 12-year-old girl was stung, given immediate treatment by beach attendants before being rushed to the hospital.

Following these cases, the department carried out an investigation Wednesday to identify the species of jellyfish that had stung the children.

The investigation, led by officers from the Likas Fisheries Research Centre, identified two species namely the chironomid box jellyfish (Chiropsalmus quadrigatus) which is locally known as "ubur-ubur api" and is highly venomous as well as neurotoxic, cardiotoxic and dermatonecrotic.

The other species was identified as "ubur-ubur pasir" which is a black spotted jellyfish similar to the Catostylus townsendi species. Its sting causes inflammation and swelling.

Dr Ahemad said that the jellyfish season is expected to persist throughout January to March.

During this period, his department and the Civil Defence Department will work together to raise public awareness especially to beach goers.

"We will be carrying this out until March when the jellyfish season is expected to be over," he said.

Pamphlets have been distributed to beach goers containing information about the species of venomous jellyfish, how to avoid getting stung and what to do if stung.

He pointed out that red flags have been put in place along the popular Tg Aru beach areas to warn beach goers of the risk.

Asked if the department would put up sign boards in strategic areas to inform the public about the jellyfish risk (as the meaning of the red flags may not be understood especially by children), Dr Ahemad said he welcomed the idea and would look into it.

He also said that public awareness campaigns will be carried out statewide especially in public beaches.

The department will also ensure that tourists who are not familiar with the local marine conditions will be well informed about the jellyfish situation.

"We will be engaging all stakeholders including resorts and local community leaders to disseminate information," he said, adding that the public can also log on to the department's website to get more information.

He noted that the jellyfish season is a natural phenomenon that happens particularly during the dry period but this year is an exception as cases that happened so far had been too close apart.

On New Year's Eve a few years ago, a Japanese boy was reported to have died after being stung by jellyfish at a beach in Kota Belud.

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