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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Rise of the Jellyfish 

Next week the media will be dominated by the Olympics but for now, the world media seem to have decided that the story to dominate August news is the 'Rise of the Jellyfish'

To be fair, it is not just a populist news story, jellyfish have been arriving earlier than usual and in larger numbers; they have also been turning up in unusual places. Indicators which many marine biologists claim is evidence of the declining health of the sea, caused by global warming, over fishing and pollution.

However, don't be panicked into avoiding the coast for fear of a killer plague lurking in the water. While extremely painful, many jellyfish stings are not actually lethal to humans, though some can be deadly and it is wise to know how to deal with a sting. Get out of the water to avoid drowning, seek immediate medical attention and do not rub the sting, or apply fresh water, alcohol, spirits, ammonia, or urine, since all are said to encourage the release of venom. In extreme cases, medical practitioners may need to use anti-venom but most authorities seem to recommend the use of an acidic treatment such as vinegar to ease the pain and hot, but not scalding, salt water is reported to ease the pain of a sting by denaturing the toxins, although if hypothermia is suspected hot water can do more harm than good and should be avoided. I know from experience that hot water is a trick that works well on the sting from weaver fish. Read more in an authoritative Wiki article.

But jellyfish are not all bad news, in China, Japan and Asia, several varieties are regarded as good eating, though seem to require a month or more of complex preperation. Which takes us rather neatly back to the Olympics.

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