Box jellyfish are one of the aquatic kingdoms most dangerous creatures. In a class separate from all others, this jellyfish is extremely deadly, with a sting that kills faster than venomous spiders and snakes. These tiny and virtually invisible creatures are so toxic that a great number of the swimmers stung cannot be saved in time.
There are about 19 species of box jellyfish. Two of them are considered the most venomous creatures in the world, deadly to all other species on the planet except the sea turtles which feed on them. Ones’ stinger can have enough venom to kill 60 adult humans in less than 3 minutes.
The two most common types of box jellyfish are the chironex fleckeri and the carukia barnesi. The chironex fleckeri is the largest and most dangerous box jellyfish and can grow to the size of a basketball, with 4 clusters of 15 tentacles each. Their size does not make spotting one any easier to unsuspecting swimmers. They are pale blue and transparent making them nearly undetectable.
This dangerous species of box jellyfish is largely to blame for swimmers’ deaths. Since the size of their sting area is usually large (due to long tentacles) and its venom quickly acts on the central nervous system, dangerous stings cause heart attack or drowning in only minutes. Severe stings commonly result in death before getting to shore.
Currently there is anti-venom for chironex fleckeri, but it must be administered quickly. The area should be handled with care to avoid activating the unfired stingers. Pour vinegar onto the sting, and gently remove the tentacle with a glove or towel. It is common for careless and well-meaning people to get poisoned themselves by touching unfired stingers without proper protection. Do not apply pressure, do not apply a tourniquet. Just get the person to an emergency room as quickly as possible. Any agents other than vinegar applied to a sting can cause further firing of stingers and quicker envenomation of the victim.
The carukia barnesi box jellyfish, however, is only about the size of a fingernail, clear in color, and powerfully poisonous. One small sting is all it takes to cause an extremely painful sickness dubbed Irukandji syndrome. This condition causes such extreme pain that patients are often so sure they will die they ask their doctors to kill them and get it over with.
There is currently no anti-venom for this species of box jellyfish, and the only treatment is to wash the area with vinegar to deactivate the stingers. The victim will be administered analgesics to help combat the pain. It can last from 4-30 hours, with complete elimination of symptoms after 2 weeks.
The venom from box jellyfish quickly and efficiently causes effects because of its method of entering the body. When the stinger comes into contact with the victim, it releases barbs that pierce the skin, and the venom is pumped directly into the bloodstream.
In areas where box jellyfish stings or sightings are common, there are stinger nets. These provide some protection for swimmers from the larger specimens, but aren’t completely effective in case a tentacle has become detached and manages to float into swimmer territory.
They are known to be most common in warm waters, but have been spotted elsewhere. In the ocean, box jellyfish are the biggest cause for concern amongst swimmers anywhere.