Monday, May 27, 2002

Box jellyfish, like this one found last year on Waikiki Beach, congregated at Kailua Beach this weekend.

Jellyfish invasion
surprises Kailua

Lifeguards post signs after
swimmers are stung over 3 days

By Rosemarie Bernardo

A rare invasion of box jellyfish in Kailua Bay over the last three days left dozens of swimmers in pain and lifeguards bewildered.

Normally the stinging creatures show up along South Shore beaches at specific times. But yesterday, no one could explain why they suddenly showed up in Kailua. Lifeguards reported that 15 people were stung yesterday, while 40 people were stung on Friday.

Lifeguards posted signs yesterday at Kailua Beach Park warning beachgoers of the box jellyfish, and they will assess the situation again this morning.

The signs did not stop most people from going into the water.

Kaleo Pereza of Kailua said he has never been stung by a box jellyfish, but that did not stop him and his son, Tyler, from playing in the sand near the shoreline.

"You take your chances," Pereza said.

Others, however, were more cautious. After seeing other beachgoers who were stung, Kailua resident Cheryl Knowles said, "I'm thinking twice about getting into the water."

Fifteen minutes after Jens Nordahl entered the water, the 28-year-old from San Jose, Calif., noticed a stinging sensation and a welt on his right wrist, similar to a mosquito bite. He walked to the lifeguard tower where Shannon Clancey sprayed vinegar on the affected area.

Clancey advised Nordahl to take Benedryl to reduce the swelling and irritation.

Clancey, who was born and raised in Kailua, said it is uncommon for box jellyfish to appear in Kailua.

"I've never seen box jellyfish in Kailua. It's a phenomenon. We normally get Portuguese man of war," she said.

Most of the stings that occurred yesterday were minor irritations, according to John Hoogsteden, acting captain of the Ocean Safety Division's Windward office.

A lifeguard at Kailua Beach Park discovered about six box jellyfish scattered near the shoreline, he said.

Two types of box jellyfish in Hawaii -- Carybdea alata and Carybdea rastonii -- are known to appear along the South Shore up to 10 days after a full moon. Commonly affected areas include Waikiki Beach, Ala Moana Beach Park and Hanauma Bay.

Box jellyfish are described as nearly transparent. The body is about 1 to 3 inches long with tentacles up to 2 feet long.

Those who are stung by a box jellyfish are advised to douse the affected area with vinegar. Ice also is recommended to reduce the pain. Medical attention is advised for those who suffer from severe reactions, as stings from the box jellyfish can cause anaphylactic shock.

Angela Granger, 19, enjoyed the warm waters yesterday afternoon even though she was stung on Saturday afternoon.

"At first, I freaked out," said Granger, who is vacationing in Honolulu from Oregon. After 90 minutes the pain subsided but left a dark reddish mark on her upper right arm.

The 19-year-old said her fears of being stung again were eased after she saw residents and tourists playing in the water.

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