There are several species of octopuses in sea. They come in various size and color. Among them blue ringed octopus is one of the deadliest. This marine creature inhabits in region of Indo Pacific Ocean which includes Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and New Guinea. The animal is so named because of blue ring on its body. It normally lives in shallow rocky ocean water not more than 10 to 20 feet deep.
Throughout the year several sea goers, divers, swimmers suffer bites from blue ringed octopus in the coastal areas of these countries.Unfortunately some people may not live because of its highly potent poisonous bite. The injected venom from its bite is called tetrodotoxin, it has paralyzing effect in the body. There is no specific antidote available till now for this venom. Treatment is thus symptomatic.
Risk Factors For Blue Ringed Octopus Bite
Blue ringed octopus is a small eight tentacle creature living in shallow ocean water. With its tentacles wide open the creature is 7 to 8 inches in diameter. Usually blue ringed octopus is shy and lives under rocks, crevices, rock pools, under shells in the shallow water up to the depth of 10 to 20 feet.It is not aggressive marine animal. It bites humans only in self defense when a person comes in contact with it.
When this blue ringed octopus bites a human, it releases deadly venom from the salivary gland into the skin and human body. This venom is called tetrodotoxin. The same deadly neurotoxin is also found in pufferfish. Following people are at greater risk of blue ringed octopus bite:
- Sea divers, people who swim in shallow ocean waters where blue ringed octopus resides.
- Bites are usually accidental when the person is unaware of octopus and he may step on it.
- People who dive in coral reefs.
- Swimming in deep ocean without wearing any protective sea gear.
- Catching the octopus with bare hands.
- Walking bare foot in shallow water near the beach.
Signs And Symptoms Of Blue Ringed Octopus Bite
The bite of blue ringed octopus is highly venomous to humans. The onset of symptoms may depend on the amount of venom injected from the bite. Usually it is rapid within five to ten minutes.
The signs and symptoms are as follows:
- Tiny laceration or puncture on skin of the bitten area.
- Usually the bitten part is hand or the legs.
- Pain may be absent or minimal. Person may feel parasthesia or tingling and numbness in the affected site. This may extend all over the body.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Progressive weakness in muscles. This may lead to difficulty in breathing and also swallowing.
- Change in vision or hazy vision.
- Unable to speak due to paralysis of muscles in the voice box.
- In severe cases there is complete paralysis of the body with restricted respiration leading to respiratory failure.
- Patient becomes unconscious due to absence of oxygen in brain.
- Low blood pressure.
- Coma and death if not treated early.
The symptoms may depend on the dose of venom injected in the bite. Since children and small adults have less body mass even small dose can lead to fatality.
First Aid Treatment For A Blue Ringed Octopus Bite
Blue ringed octopus bite is serious and it is considered as an emergency. Even if the symptoms have not developed, patient should seek treatment in emergency room as soon as possible. Patient needs to be hospitalized for the treatment. However, till medical help arrives certain first aid measures will help the patient to survive from the poisonous bite.
- Move the person away from the sea water.
- Immobilize the affected area with a splint or a rod.
- Wrap the area with pressure bandage.
- Inform the medical personnel as early as possible.
- If the patient feels difficulty in breathing assist him with mouth to mouth breathing.
- Once the patient is in hospital all necessary primary resuscitating measures are taken such as use of ventilator for assisted breathing, monitoring vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate.
- Since there is no antidote available for tetrodotoxin, treatment is symptomatic.
Prognosis depends on the amount of toxin injected, but generally it is guarded.