18 Ganpati devotees stung at Mumbai's Juhu beach during visarjan

Sep 10, 2014, 07:24 IST | Anuradha Varanasi

Similar to stingray bite horror at Girgaum Chowpatty last year, devotees were rushed to Cooper Hospital after they complained of being stung by a jellyfish when they entered sea during visarjan

Last year, nearly 60 people landed in hospital after they suffered stingray bites when they entered the sea at Girgaum Chowpatty to immerse their Ganpati idols. This year, 18 people at Juhu Beach had to be rushed to the hospital after they complained of burning and itching, allegedly due to the sting of a jellyfish.

Suraj Patwa (17) says he experienced stinging pain and saw translucent blue fish sticking to his body
Suraj Patwa (17) says he experienced stinging pain and saw translucent blue fish sticking to his body

At around 5 pm on Monday, as the revellers entered the waters during visarjan, they felt pain on their body. 18 people were taken to Cooper Hospital 17 of them treated on an outpatient department (OPD) basis, while one was admitted.

Jellyfish stings cause mild to severe pain, but are rarely fatal. Representation pic/Thinkstock
Jellyfish stings cause mild to severe pain, but are rarely fatal. Representation pic/Thinkstock

17-year-old Suraj Patwa, the victim who was admitted, recalled, “I was one of the few people who had dared to enter the water till chest level during our mandal’s visarjan. However, shortly after going in, I started experiencing pain on both my arms and chest like several ants were biting me.”

“When I looked closer, I saw these small, translucent blue fish with thin tentacles that were latched on to my hands. I wasn’t even able to stand or walk, and was rushed to the hospital after consulting a doctor at the beach,” added the Kalyan resident.

While Patwa was administered painkillers, like the others who had been brought to the OPD, he said he wasn’t able to move his arms due to excruciating pain for nearly 12 hours.

“The pain finally subsided on Tuesday morning and, thankfully, I am feeling fine. Why weren’t any lifeguards present at the beach or some sort of warning issued about such fish that are present in the water? I’m relieved I don’t have to suffer any further,” he said. Patwa was discharged yesterday evening.

Dr Mangala Gomare, chief epidemiologist at the hospital, said Patwa’s condition is stable and though there is no proper diagnosis for the bites, doctors suspect that they are jellyfish bites, as described by the victims. “The other patients complained of burning and itching, but were not admitted as their symptoms were minor,” she said.

Dr Sitaram Gawde, medical superintendent of R N Cooper Hospital, said, “There were 18 people who were brought in with complaints of rashes, burning sensation and uneasiness. We treated all on OPD basis, except one. On Tuesday, we discharged the people who had been kept under observation.”

While most jellyfish stings produce effects ranging from discomfort to severe pain, some, like the Irukandji jellyfish that inhabit the marine waters of Australia, are known to be deadly. Jellyfish are also known to sting even when they’re dead; in 2010, a lion’s mane jellyfish in New Hampshire, US, stung nearly 150 people, the New York Times reported.

'No proof it was a jellyfish'
The BMC maintained that there is no confirmation that the 18 people were bitten by jellyfish.

However, the fisheries department said that they had informed the civic body of possibilities of jellyfish and stingray reaching up to Juhu Beach, even though they had not found any evidence of their presence there during their survey conducted last Saturday and Sunday. “We had informed the corporation about such a possibility. We have it on record,” said Yuvraj Choughule, assistant commissioner, state fisheries department.

“The fisheries department, according to its netting report, had said that there was likelihood of such incidences at Girgaum and Rajbhawan areas, but nothing at Juhu. There is no evidence to suggest these people were bitten by a fish,” said Vishwas Shankarwar, assistant municipal commissioner, K/West ward.

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