Australian beaches along the country’s northeast coast were closed after bluebottle jellyfish stung nearly 4,000 people this weekend.
Surf Life Saving Queensland said it treated 3,899 people since the weekend through Monday. At least two, a 14-year-old boy and a 32-year-old woman, needed paramedic treatment.
Strong northeasterly winds recently have caused groups of bluebottles, called armadas, to move closer to shore from the middle of the ocean.
The lifeguard agency duty officer Jeremy Sturges referred to the stings as an “epidemic” in a Brisbane Times report.
Bluebottle stings cause immediate, sharp pain and acute inflammatory skin reaction, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners said. They are usually treated with heat or ice packs, but some cases cause severe allergic reaction and anaphylactic shock.
Australian Maine Stinger Advisory Service director Lisa-ann Gershwin said the spate of stings may be attributable to a rare, giant bluebottle with multiple tentacles and a more severe sting.
“When I hear people saying people are getting anaphylactic shock (severe allergic reaction), it makes me wonder if maybe the cases are due to a species that isn’t the common little one, but maybe this big one is around and about and just hasn’t been confirmed,” Gershwin said in an Australian ABC report.
The rare stinger only appears once every 10 to 30 years.