TYBEE ISLAND (WSAV) – A rare problem with sea life washes up on the shores of Tybee Island this weekend. A jellyfish-like animal, the Portuguese Man O’ War, kept Ocean Rescue busy this weekend. They are also known as floating terror, with one of the most painful stings in the sea.
Unlike a jellyfish, which is a single animal, the Man-of-War is made up of four different animals living in a colony. Beth Pallmer, Program Director at the Tybee Island Marine Science Center, says they are not an invasive species. “They’re definitely native to our coast, but they are also an off shore species, um, so they’re mainly out on the open ocean, it’s only when we have strong wind and waves is when they get pushed into shore.” Pallmer said.
Tybee Ocean Rescue Captain Chad Osterlund says dozens of people were treated for Man O’ War stings this weekend, with three people transported to the hospital. “It’s very serious once you get stung by a man of war, you just have to keep continually monitoring the situation, if you’re gonna have anaphalactic shock or not, ’cause nobody knows until they get stung by one.” Osterlund said.
He adds the treatment for a Man O’ War sting is different from a jellyfish sting. “Fresh water or ammonia aggravate the man o’ war sting. A gentle scrub with wet sand from the ocean and a warm ocean water rinse will help flush the pores.” said Osterlund. Osterlund says if beach-goers see a blue or purple balloon-like thing floating on the water, steer clear, it’s more than likely a Portuguese Man O’ War. Pallmer says they present a stinging danger whether they’re dead or alive and encourages people to avoid contact if they see them lying on the beach.