Central Coast Council and Lake Macquarie City are warning their communities to be alert to the possible presence of ‘Morbakka fenneri’ jellyfish in Lake Macquarie following the recent discovery of one of the species in the southern part of the waterway.
The Morbakka is a species of Irukandji jellyfish that is more common to the Moreton Bay area but has been found between Port Douglas and Sydney. The jellyfish found in Lake Macquarie was discovered among mangroves in Mannering Bay near Mannering Park by two marine researchers from the Australian Museum who were conducting a study on an unrelated jellyfish.
A Morbakka sting can cause symptoms of Irukandji syndrome, which may include nausea, vomiting, severe lower back pain, breathing difficulties, profuse sweating, severe cramps and spasms. The incidence of stings is rare, and symptoms are typically mild, but some cases have required hospitalisation.
Central Coast Council Director of Assets, Infrastructure and Business, Mike Dowling, said it was important for the community to be aware of the possible presence of Morbakka in the lake.
“With only one reported sighting across a large body of water, the risk appears to be low but residents should be aware of the possibility of encountering the jellyfish and know how to respond in the event of a sting,” Mr Dowling said.
“The best immediate treatment is liberal application of vinegar, which will neutralise the sting and prevent further envenomation. Applying hot or cold water is not recommended, nor is rubbing or wiping the area, as this can exacerbate the severity of the sting. A cold pack can be applied after the area has been treated with vinegar.”
Experts advise that an ambulance should be called, or medical assistance sought, if a sting victim shows any of the following symptoms: severe lower back pain, nausea or vomiting, breathing difficulties or spasms.
Morbakka fenneri has a transparent box-shaped bell with one tentacle in each corner. The bell can be six to 18 centimetres wide with four ribbon-shaped tentacles up to one metre long. They tend to swim near the waterway bottom but can be attracted to lights at night.
The Councils have sought advice from, and will continue to work with, experts from the CSIRO and Australian Museum, including Dr Lisa-ann Gershwin, who is the foremost authority on the species.