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Swimmers plagued by jellyfish bites

By Heather RamsayA rash of jellyfish stings off the east coast of the islands have plagued swimmers seeking relief from the heat. "I didn't see anything until I got stung," says 11-year-old Haelie Wilhelm of Port Clements, who was swimming near Misty Meadows campground in Tlell on July 30. After she was stung in the back of her leg, Ms Wilhelm looked around and saw a red jellyfish, about the size of a small folded up cell phone."It was the most intense stinging pain I've ever felt," she said. She leapt out of the water and was taken to a relative's home where vinegar was used to salve the ache.Robin Pozer, the charge nurse at the Queen Charlotte Islands General Hospital said at least half a dozen people were treated in one day last week. People were treated with an antihistamine and sent home.From all accounts, the culprit seems to be Cyanea capillata or the Lion's Mane jellyfish, as it is more colloquially known. Norm Sloan, marine biologist at Gwaii Haanas, says the species, which has a tangled arrangement of red arms under a translucent bell, can at its largest, be up to two metres across and have tentacle trails that extent 9 metres."It's well known as a stinger," he says. The stings are painful, but not fatal and sometimes leave a red welt. He says vinegar or meat tenderizer might help (MSG), but not fresh water. What isn't known is why the jellyfish are in abundance in shallow water near Haida Gwaii right now. "I can't speculate on that," he said. He says no one monitors jellyfish, so increases in abundance are not tracked. Meanwhile in Tlell, Lucy Stefanyk of Naikoon Provincial Park says that many people have approached her with questions about the multitudinous jellyfish they've seen."They don't even want to go for a swim," she says.Young Ms Wilhelm agrees. She's not going swimming again until the jellyfish are gone, or "in a river with no jellyfish," she says.Ms Wilhelm also has a piece of advice for those who get stung. "Don't pee on it. It doesn't help," she said. She didn't try it, but found that out on the Internet.