A woman has been bitten multiple times by one of Australia’s most infamous and deadly creatures—the blue-ringed octopus.
The victim was swimming on Chinamans Beach in Sydney’s Lower North Shore when she picked up a shell, which turned out to contain the tiny killer creature.
Having fallen out onto her stomach, the blue-ringed octopus bit her twice on the abdomen.
“A blue-ringed octopus bite is a rare call for us but they are extremely venomous,” NSW (New South Wales) Ambulance inspector Christian Holmes said in a statement.
Blue-ringed octopuses are some of the most venomous creatures in the world, and contain enough venom to kill 26 adult humans within minutes. Their venom, which contains tetrodotoxin, is produced by symbiotic bacteria in the octopus’ salivary glands, and is said to be over 1,200 more toxic than cyanide.
These tiny creatures, which are actually a group of at least four individual species, are only around 5 inches long, and are covered in around 60 of their characteristic iridescent blue rings. These rings are only brightly colored when the octopus feels threatened, using their markings as a warning to creatures that may be about to eat it. They are found in the shallows and on coral reefs across the Indian and Pacific oceans, ranging from Japan all the way south to Australia.
A file photo of a blue-ringed octopus. A woman bitten by a blue-ringed octopus in Sydney has been taken to hospital. iStock / Getty Images Plus
After an ambulance was called, the woman was experiencing abdominal pain near the site of the bite, for which she was given a cold compress, Holmes said. She was then taken to Royal North Shore Hospital to be monitored and treated further.
The venom of the blue-ringed octopus is neurotoxic, meaning that it paralyzes the nervous system. It can lead to nausea, respiratory arrest, heart failure, severe and muscular paralysis, with death coming from the eventual paralysis of the diaphragm and subsequent asphyxiation.
There is no antivenom available for a blue-ringed octopus bite, however, if a bite victim is medically monitored and given oxygen manually if their breathing becomes affected, then they may recover as the venom is broken down inside the body.
Luckily, both bites and deaths from these strange creatures are rare, as they usually avoid humans and will only bite if threatened or provoked. There have only been three confirmed deaths from blue-ringed octopus bites—two in Australia and one in Singapore—however, some argue that this number is as high as 11.
Eating the octopus can also lead to poisoning, with there being at least one case of someone having become ill after accidentally consuming a blue-ringed octopus in Taiwan. However, tetrodotoxin has been found to be around 50 times less toxic when swallowed compared to entering the body via a bite wound.
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