June 9, 2001 The Department of Planning and Natural Resources is warning the public to watch out for the highly toxic Portuguese Man-of-War, which has been found washed up on some of the territory's beaches.
The Man-of-War, which is often referred to as a jellyfish, is actually a colony of organisms known for its extremely painful sting. It can be identified by its translucent, bright blue to azure purple balloon-like float up to 12 inches long, which can extend up to 6 inches out of the water.
Beneath the float hang tentacles that can be several feet long and contain the stinging cells. The tentacles' cells can still sting as much as 10 days after washing up on the beach.
Stings can cause red raised welts, severe burning or itching skin, or numbness or pain in the limbs. It can even cause shock, fever and interference with heart and lung functioning.
A book, "All Stings Considered," by Dr. Craig Thomas and Susan Scott recommends the following procedures to treat man-of-war stings:
Pick off any visible tentacles with a gloved hand, stick or anything handy, being careful to avoid further injury.
Rinse the sting thoroughly with salt or fresh water to remove any adhering tentacles.
Apply ice for pain control.
Irrigate exposed eyes with copious amounts of room temperature tap water for at least 15 minutes. If vision blurs, or the eyes continue to tear, hurt, swell or are light sensitive after irrigating, see a doctor.
For persistent itching or skin rash, try 1 percent hydrocortisone ointment four times a day, and one or two 25 milligram diphenhydramine (Benadryl) tablets every 6 hours. These drugs are sold without prescription. Diphenhydramine may cause drowsiness. Don't drive, swim or surf after taking this medication.
The release from DPNR did not indicate where the jellyfish had been found, but did suggest residents and visitors stay out of the water until the man-of-wars disappear from the beaches and shorelines.
Man-of-wars live in warm tropical and sub-tropical waters and in some areas float through the ocean in groups of up to a 1,000. They have no ability to swim or direct their movement. They are carried by ocean currents.