A woman has been bitten multiple times by one of Australia’s most notorious and deadly creatures – the blue-ringed octopus.
The victim was swimming at Chinamans Beach on Sydney’s Lower North Shore when she picked up a shell, which turned out to be the tiny killer creature.
The blue-ringed octopus that fell on her stomach bit her twice in the stomach.
“The bite of a blue-ringed octopus is a rare call for us, but it is extremely venomous,” NSW Ambulance Inspector Christian Holmes said in a statement.
Blue-ringed octopuses are among the most venomous creatures on earth, containing enough venom to kill 26 adult humans in minutes. Their venom, which contains tetrodotoxin, is produced by symbiotic bacteria in the octopus’ salivary glands and is said to be over 1,200 times more toxic than cyanide.
Actually a group of at least four individual species, these tiny creatures are only about 5 inches long and covered in about 60 of their distinctive iridescent blue rings. These rings are only brightly colored when the octopus feels threatened, using their markings as a warning to creatures that may eat it. They are found in the shallows and on coral reefs in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, from Japan south to Australia.
After an ambulance was called, the woman experienced abdominal pain near the bite site, which is why she was given a cold compress, Holmes said. She was then taken to the Royal North Shore Hospital for further monitoring and treatment.
The venom of the blue-ringed octopus is neurotoxic, meaning it paralyzes the nervous system. It can cause nausea, respiratory arrest, heart failure, severe and muscular paralysis, and death from eventual paralysis of the diaphragm and subsequent asphyxiation.
There is no antidote for a blue-ringed octopus bite, but if a bite victim is medically monitored and manually given oxygen when their breathing is compromised, they can recover as the venom is broken down in the body.
Luckily, both bites and deaths from these strange creatures are rare, as they typically avoid humans and only bite when threatened or provoked. There have only been three confirmed fatalities from blue-ringed octopus bites – two in Australia and one in Singapore – but some argue that number is as high as 11.
Eating the octopus can also lead to poisoning, with at least one case of someone in Taiwan getting sick after accidentally eating a blue-ringed octopus. However, it has been found that tetrodotoxin is about 50 times less toxic if swallowed than if it enters the body via a bite wound.
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