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Med J Aust. 2004 Dec 6-20;181(11-12):699-702.

Irukandji syndrome in northern Western Australia: an emerging health problem.

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Department of Medicine, Broome Health Service, Broome, WA.



(1) To assess the number and severity of episodes of Irukandji syndrome in Broome, Western Australia. (2) To correlate demographic, seasonal, geographic and climatic features of Irukandji stings. (3) To assess treatment of Irukandji syndrome at Broome Health Service. (4) To assess the public health impact.


(1) A retrospective analysis of jellyfish data forms and charts of 111 patients, identified from Broome Health Service Emergency Department with a discharge diagnosis of marine sting between 1 January 2001 and 1 July 2003. (2) Correlation between climate and Irukandji envenomation data.


Number of patients with Irukandji syndrome; their demographic and environmental features; the clinical syndrome; treatment requirements.


111 patients were prospectively identified with marine stings; 88 were identified with Irukandji syndrome. Non-Irukandji syndrome data were excluded for analysis. The "jellyfish season" extends from January to May, although stings occur all year round. Only 38% of patients had vinegar applied to the sting site before hospital presentation. Signs and symptoms were variable between individuals, with 20% having no signs of sting at all and welts found in 16%. Fifty per cent of patients were hypertensive at presentation. Distress was found in the majority of patients, with 90% requiring opioid analgesia (morphine equivalent: mean, 20 mg; median, 13 mg) and 17% requiring admission. There was one evacuation to Perth with cardiotoxic marine envenomation resulting in pulmonary oedema, which necessitated 4 days in intensive care. Stings were significantly more common when the ambient median temperature was greater than 28.3 degrees C, after midday, on an incoming high tide and on windy days.


The rate of envenomation in northern WA is likely to be the highest currently documented in Australia. There is syndromic variability when compared with the north Queensland experience. This implies different causative jellyfish species that are not yet identified. Stings in Broome can be severe and life threatening; there are significant commercial and public health implications as a result. Management at Broome Hospital is contemporary and effective.

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