Advisory on Portuguese man-of-war

The Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR) has issued an advisory after recent reports of jellyfish washing up on our shores and harming swimmers.

The most common jellyfish found in American Samoa waters is the hydroid jellyfish; however, a recent sighting of Portuguese man-of-war has raised concern for swimmers and beach goers.

It is suspected that they are present in large numbers due to the strong winds which are pushing them closer to shore.

A teenage boy had to seek medical attention after he was stung at Utulei Beach and developed a rash.

The Portuguese man-of-war is easily recognizable with its dark blue tentacles, 30 to 100 feet long.

The tentacles are attached to a gas bladder which floats on the water surface; however, some of the tentacles break free and are difficult to see until you feel the painful sting.

The Portuguese man-of-war is known as the Blue Bottle in other parts of the world and is not a real jellyfish. It is a hydrozoan which is more closely related to fire coral.

DMWR advises the public to refrain from touching the animals even if they wash up on the beaches.

The tentacles still contain potent neurotoxin which will cause painful red welts, accompanied by swelling and moderate to severe pain which can last 2 to 3 days.

In very rare cases, a severe allergic reaction may interfere with cardiac and respiratory functions. In such cases, seek immediate medical treatment at the LBJ Hospital.

Here are some tips from DMWR if you come in contact with Portugese man-of-war:

  • Avoid rubbing the affected area;
  • Remove tentacles using gloves and tweezers;
  • Once the tentacles or any remnants have been removed, flush the area with seawater;
  • Apply heat. Use the hottest water you can tolerate without scalding;
  • If severe allergic reaction occurs, seek emergency medical assistance.

The Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources asks the public to please report sightings at 633-4456 and ask for Maria Vaofanua.