Swimmers at Fingal Beach are being warned of a new menace in the water.
No, not sharks but stingrays, with an increase in the number of attacks, including four in just two days.
Martin Lau, Hunter New England’s health service manager, said that so far this year emergency staff at Tomaree Community Hospital had been treating an average of four people per day with injuries caused by stingrays.
“If a person is injured by a stingray, wash the wound site to remove any debris and immerse in hot water (approximately 45 degrees) for a maximum of 90 minutes,” Mr Lau said.
“If hot water is unavailable, ice packs can be applied to the areas for up to 30 minutes for pain relief. Seek medical assessment for cleaning of the wound, tetanus immunisation, pain relief, if required, and therapy to prevent infection.
“If a stingray barb penetrates a major part of the body such as the abdomen or chest, urgent medical attention is required.”
Sydney visitor Cath Mays, who has been holidaying with her family in Fingal Bay for 18 years, said she had personally witnessed two of the barb cuts on one day.
“I’m not sure if this is a common occurrence at Fingal Bay, but in all the years I’ve been coming here for Christmas holidays I’ve never seen one,” Ms Mays said.
“From the information I received, all the swimmers have been holiday-makers cooling on the southern end of the beach.”
According to the visitor, the victims suffered injuries to varying degrees.
“It seems they were speared by the stingray’s barb inflicting terrible cuts, and in at least a couple of those incidents witnesses said there was a massive amount of blood spilled before the victims were transported to Tomaree Hospital,” she said.
Hunter Surf Lifesaving member Glen Dunkley said that it was not unusual to see stingrays in the water during the warmer months at Fingal.
“But four incidents in two days is rather unique,” he said.
Ms Mays said that the incidents, which were reported to the lifeguards, had left her entire family apprehensive about entering the water again.
“We are not overly keen to go back in the water but it won’t stop us from holidaying in Port Stephens.”