Death in Kerala due to jellyfish sting: When does it become deadly? Doctor explains

Severe itching, swelling and clogging of fishing nets are common issues faced by fishermen due to these free-swimming animals. Photo: Istock/schankz

A few days ago in Thiruvananthapuram, a jellyfish hit a 57-year-old fisherman's eye while removing it from his fishing net. He sought treatment at two hospitals after his eyes were swollen. His relatives eventually decided to take him to the medical college as his symptoms didn’t subside. However, he lost his life on the way. Time and again, the increasing jellyfish blooms on the Kerala coast and the concern among fisherfolk due to it have made it to the news. Severe itching and swelling are common issues faced by fishermen due to these free-swimming animals. The news of a person losing life due to the organism left many wondering whether jellyfish stings can be toxic enough to kill a person. Dr Chithra Raghvan, the superintend at the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology, explains:

What happens when they sting
As per reports, India has around 50 species of jellyfish and 20 of them are identified in Kerala. Though the venom of most jellyfish is not harmful, some can be deadly. The venom affects the nervous system, heart and skin cells of the human body leading to death. That said, the postmortem report of the fisherman who died of jellyfish sting is yet to be received to know more about the cause of death. The variety of the fish is also not ascertained yet. Dr Chithra Raghvan says that if a deadly jellyfish hits the eye, the venom may enter the body through shock. Box jellyfish, distinguished by its box-shaped body, is 15 centimetres long with sharp-edged tentacles. This is an extremely lethal jellyfish that stings and releases venom using their sharp tentacles. 

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