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The Chironex box-jellyfish has been responsible for 67 deaths since records were first kept. Many people claim that “they weren’t present in my day” but the first recorded death was in Townsville 1884.

As yet the “Irukandji” has not been responsible for a recorded death, but several people were dangerously ill, and would have died if it hadn’t been for expert medical attention. The severe symptoms or “illness” that the “Irukandji” causes was reported in 1943, but was known well before this. The symptoms are called the “Irukandji syndrome”.

Prevention of stings from Chironex and “Irukandji” are easily achieved by obeying simple rules. Most people would obey the `road rules’, and wouldn’t dream of running out into the road without looking first. If simple rules are learnt to avoid stings, then there should be no more deaths or serious stings.

1. Summer: Chironex and “Irukandji” stings occur in the summer season in tropical Australia

2. Weather: Chironex do not like rough seas but may be common on hot days with calm seas and light, northerly winds

3. Prevalence: Chironex like gently sloping sandy beaches, especially near rivers and mangrove inlets.

4. Patrolled beaches: Whereabouts of patrolled beaches (surf lifesaver on duty).

BEWARE! – They are almost transparent and cannot been seen, even in very shallow, clear water.


1. Protective clothing: “Stinger suits” made of lycra are also available. They also provide some protection against sunburn. Wear protective clothing, as Chironex cannot sting through even the thinnest layers of clothing. Footwear, long trousers and shirts; even pantihose are effective!

2. Stinger resistant enclosures: Stinger resistant nets, if available, effectively prevent entry of Chironex.

3. Slow entry to water: Chironex will often swim away from people moving slowly into the water, or the victim is able to retreat rapidly backwards without becoming too entangled in tentacles. This is impossible if the victim runs into the water.

4. Always swim on a patrolled beach: Swim between the flags! Surf lifesavers net the beach regularly to check for presence of dangerous jellyfish, and are trained to treat serious stings and are experts at resuscitation. They will close the beach if it is unsafe.

5. Obey warning signs: Many beaches display warning signs when dangerous jellyfish may be present. NEVER swim when the red flag is flying and the beach is closed.