Sept. 13, 2004 A potentially deadly jellyfish known as the sea wasp has been sighted at East End beaches, according to Dean Plaskett, commissioner of the Planning and Natural Resources Department.
The sea wasp has a painful, or even fatal, sting that is particularly dangerous to people who are prone to anaphylactic shock, according to Rafe Boulon, marine biologist with the National Park Service on St. John.
Boulon recalled an influx of the dangerous jellyfish that occurred at Trunk Bay on St. John about three years ago.
"About 90 people were stung,"Boulon said, "and some had to go to the clinic."
Boulon said sea wasps are often seen under docks where they are attracted to prey that is attracted to lighted areas.
In a release from his office, Plaskett warned that people should stay out of the water where the jellyfish had been sighted. The release, however, was not specific about the beaches where the jellyfish had been seen.
The Caribbean sea wasp has a translucent dome about two to three-and-a-half inches tall, which may have reddish or bluish tints, Plaskett said. They are box-shaped and have a foot-long single tentacle hanging from each of the four corners of the box-like dome.
It is the tentacle that they use to sting their prey. The nematocysts found on the tentacles are what causes the fierce stinging.
If stung, Plaskett advised, do not rub or touch the affected area, "as this serves only to discharge nematocysts not initially released." He said, instead, "Use a thin piece of plastic (credit card) or wood to scrape the affected area."
He said "Application of vinegar will inhibit the discharge of nemotocysts while the tentacles are being removed."
If non-localized pain or shortness of breath occurs, immediate medical attention should be sought.
"This is the time of year that jellyfish are found in our waters," Boulon said. "Usually it is the moon jellyfish," which only produce a mild sting.
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