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Swimmers feel sting

July 26, 2005|By: Lauren Vane

Swarms of jellyfish that have been appearing at Orange County beaches

since last week continue to sting beachgoers as lifeguards all along

Newport's beaches report seeing "hundreds of thousands" of the

creatures floating near shore.

The threat of being stung was enough to keep some people out of

the water Monday afternoon. Instead of the throngs of people usually

seen swimming in the water on a hot day, the sandy shore was crowded

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with cautious onlookers, searching the surf for jellyfish.

As of 6 p.m. Monday, lifeguards reported more than 400 people had

been stung.

Lifeguard boats positioned offshore radioed into tower lifeguards

each time they spotted a large cluster of jellyfish headed toward the

beach.

The jellyfish are being identified as black jellyfish. Dennis

Kelly, professor of marine biology at Orange Coast College, said

recently he had never seen this species before.

Research conducted by the Newport Beach Lifeguards reported the

jellyfish come in large swarms, cycling every 10 years.

It's the tentacles, not the body of the jellyfish, that people

should watch out for. The tentacles have stinging cells that shoot

poison into the victim, Kelly said. The jellyfish can still sting

even if they appear to be lifeless and washed up onto the beach.

Kelly described the sting as like being stung by a wasp.

Lifeguards can treat the sting with a squirt from a spray bottle of

vinegar.

As word of the jellyfish spread across the beach, beach goers made

their own choices about whether or not to go into the water.

Lifeguards did not evacuate people from the water.

"It's not a life-safety issue," Schulz said.

Some people did, however, see the jellyfish as reason enough not

to hang out in the water.

"We asked the lifeguard if we should go swimming," said

15-year-old Samantha Evens, of Dallas. "He said, 'Only if you want to

get stung.'"

All the children in the Evens family, who are here visiting

relatives, have been stung by a jellyfish.

Hope Evens, 8, said the fear of a jellyfish sting was keeping her

from making sandcastles. Her sister, Olivia, 13, was stung on the

foot.

The jellyfish had been coming in waves throughout the day, said

Newport Beach Fire spokeswoman Jennifer Schulz. After a large influx,

swimmers would get out of the water; when no jellyfish were seen for

some time, people would venture back in, Schulz said.

"All of a sudden, they just kind of disappeared out of the water,"

Olivia said.

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