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Woman dies after being stung by Portuguese man-of-war

August 30, 2010 | 12:25 pm

Portuguese man-of-war. A woman swimming off of an Italian beach died after being stung by a Portuguese man-of-war and having an apparent allergic reaction. The case is thought to be the first of its kind in Europe.

The Daily Mail reported Thursday that Maria Furcas, 69, was swimming with her sister at Porto Tramatzu beach in Sardinia, Italy, when she was stung by a Portuguese man-of-war.

Witnesses said that Furcas came out of the water, told a lifeguard what had happened and then collapsed on the beach after suffering what is believed to have been anaphylactic shock. Paramedics who rushed to the scene were unable to save her, and she died on the beach.

Some marine experts believe that Furcas is the first fatal case from a Portuguese man-of-war sting in the Mediterranean.

"We have had reports of Portuguese man-of-war ... throughout the summer all over the Mediterranean," Ferdinando Boero, a marine biology lecturer at the University of Salento, said. "There have been fatalities before, but only in far-off places such as Florida or Australia -- this is the first time I have heard of a fatality in the Mediterranean."

Furcas' death occurred just days after more than 700 people complained of stings when jellies swarmed beaches along Spain's Costa Blanca, and Boero contends that climate change has brought about an increase in the number of the creatures in the area.

The Portuguese man-of-war "has always been present in the Mediterranean, but now they are increasing in numbers due to global warming. You just need to be careful and if you see one while swimming stay away and obviously don't touch -- that goes for ones that are on the beach and dead because they can still sting."

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A Portuguese man-of-war. Credit: Southeastern Regional Taxonomic Center / South Carolina Department of Natural Resources