Portuguese Men-of-War wash ashore on county beaches

Portuguese Men-of-War wash ashore on county beaches
News
Friday, February 15, 2013 - 5:46pm

Cameron County Emergency Management (CCEM) is asking visitors to county beaches to watch
their steps as they enjoy the waters of the Gulf of Mexico over the next few days due to the
presence of hundreds of potentially, poisonous jellyfish-like Portuguese Men of War.

“We’re asking beachgoers to simply not touch the jellyfish-like, marine creature,” CCEM
Coordinator Humberto Barrera advised. “The venomous tentacles can deliver a painful sting.”

Easily identified by their translucent pink and purple gas-filled, bubble-like bladder above and its
long venomous tentacles below, these colony of sea creatures have recently washed ashore on
Boca Chica Beach, Isla Blanca Park, Andy Bowie Park, Beach Access #5 and Beach Access #6.

Cameron County Extension Agent (Coastal & Marine Resources) E. Tony Reisinger added,
“This sudden emergence (or bloom) of this jellyfish-like zooplankton is actually a normal
occurrence seasonally worldwide.”

Nevertheless, County officials are recommending beachgoers not to touch the Portuguese Men of
War, whether found floating in the water or simply washed ashore on the beaches. The severe
pain from the stinging tentacles (even if the creature is dead) will subside after about an hour,
and the whip-like, red welts on the skin will normally last 2 or 3 days after the initial sting.
Allergic reactions are also possible. Although stings may also cause death, this is extremely rare.

If stung by a Portuguese Man of War, you should:

  • avoid any further contact with the Portuguese Man of War and to carefully remove any remnants of the
  • organism from the skin (taking care not to touch them directly with fingers or any other part of the skin to
  • avoid secondary stinging); then
  • apply salt water to the affected area (not fresh water, which tends to make the affected area worse; not
  • vinegar since it only works on jellyfish but not on siphonophores like the Portuguese Man-of-War)
  • follow up with the application of hot water to the affected area from anywhere between 15-20 minutes,
  • which eases the pain of a sting.
  • if necessary, seek medical attention, especially for allergic reactions.
     

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