A 17-year-old boy has died in hospital a week after being stung by a box jellyfish, while swimming at a beach on Western Cape York.
It is the first recorded box jellyfish fatality since 2006.
The boy was stung while swimming at Patterson Point, near Bamaga, on February 22.
The Royal Flying Doctor’s Service was called to the scene and the teenager was intubated before he was flown to the Townsville Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.
A spokesperson for Queensland police said the boy died in hospital on Monday and a report would be prepared for the coroner.
Marine biologist and world-renowned jellyfish expert Lisa-Ann Gerswhin said the boy’s death was the first recorded box jellyfish fatality in 15 years.
“Unfortunately, that [previous] fatality also occurred in Bamaga,” Dr Gershwin said.
Fatalities are avoidable
Dr Gershwin said box jellyfish – also known as Chironex fleckeri – are the world’s most venomous animal.
“Chironex are the only animal in the world that kills by causing the heart to lock in a contracted state,” she said.
But, Dr Gershwin said box jellyfish fatalities were avoidable.
“The fundamentally important part of this is about who lives and who dies [and] overwhelmingly it’s people in remote communities who die,” she said.
“It’s not a physiological difference, but it’s that education around the dangers of stingers that is different.
“In populated areas where there are stinger nets, people are constantly reminded about the presence of stingers, whereas in remote areas you don’t have that constant reminder.”
Dr Gerswhin said more needed to be done to increase protection against marine jellyfish stings for people living in rural and remote parts of Australia.
“There is no silver lining to a young man dying from a box jellyfish sting, but maybe to honour him and his family we should start having that conversation,” she said.
“Nobody needs to die from a box jellyfish sting, we know how to avoid stings, we know how to be safe.”
The death of the 17-year-old is the 79th box jellyfish fatality since Australian records began in the late 1800s.
The Northern Peninsula Area Council has erected signs at coastal swimming spots throughout the community, warning people not to enter the water during stinger season.