Monday, 11 October 2021

KBC Osijek: Tragedy as Young Slavonia Man Dies from Hornet Sting

October the 11th, 2021 - A young Slavonia man has tragically died at KBC Osijek after having been stung by a hornet, one of Croatia's most dangerous insects that we've all been taught to do all in our power to avoid.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the young man from Slavonia passed away following the incident with the insect at KBC Osijek on Thursday.

The man, who is unofficially known to be 33 years old, was brought by ambulance to the intensive care unit of the Clinic of Neurology at KBC Osijek, local portal Glas Slavonije writes. As a result of several hornet stings, his central nervous system was severely damaged, which eventually led to his death.

The young man was attacked and stung by the hornet in a forest in the Nasice area.

A close encounter with these dangerous and notoriously aggressive insects was experienced last month by a group of Croatian students who were out on a field trip with their teacher in the woods near Pozega. The hornets, offended by their presence, succeeded in stinging several children who also ended up in requiring hospital treatment, and as many as ten hornet stings were obtained by a member of the HGSS (Croatian Mountain Rescue Service) who was called for help.

Dr. Visnja Prus, head of the Department of Rheumatology, Clinical Immunology and Allergology at the KBC Osijek, warned that hornet stings, especially ones from the well known Asian hornet, can cause organ failure. Stings from these insects can also be fatal to people who aren't otherwise allergic to insect stings such as those from the likes of wasps.

“It also matters where the hornet stings you and whether it’s in the head, neck or periphery. Therefore, care should be taken when outdoors, especially if you're going into the woods. Insects can easily get into bottles or cans and stay in them, so you should be careful. Forest workers and even fishermen are usually alone, so it is certainly advisable to have a mobile phone with you so that you can call for help in case something happens,'' Prus explained for Glas Slavonije, pointing out that an urgent reaction is very important after a hornet sting.

The puncture site where the sting has gone in should be first cooled down with ice and then you should make your way to the local hospital. Attention should also be paid to symptoms such as shortness of breath, a drop in blood pressure, and possible fainting.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Sunday, 15 August 2021

Venomous Devil's Firefish Photographed for First Time Close to Komiza

August the 15th, 2021 - Swimmers close to Komiza should keep their eyes peeled when enjoying the beautiful Croatian Adriatic after the potentially dangerous Devil's Firefish or Lionfish (Pterois miles) was filmed swimming in that area for the very first time.

As Morski writes, a few articles have already been written about the appearance of new, venomous and potentially highly dangerous fish in the Croatian Adriatic. The Devil's Firefish (Pterois miles) has been seen several times in the waters of neighbouring Italy, and experts rightly expected that this species would spread very quickly to the Eastern, Croatian part of the Adriatic. Now it has become official, because the dangerous fish was filmed for the first time swimming near the Komiza seabed by an underwater photographer and diver, Damir Zurub.

''Today I had a close encounter with the invasive Devil's Firefish (Pterois miles) for the first time, but not somewhere where it's common to come across it. To be more precise, I took several photos of this fish in the Adriatic while diving with DC Manta near Cape Stupiste, near the coast of Komiza on the island of Vis - these are the first shots and probably the first recorded encounter with this invasive fish species in the Adriatic sea,'' announced Damir Zurub, confirming that the fish was filmed at a depth of just fifteen metres, where he also recorded an incredibly high sea temperature of 24 °C.

The editor of the Podvodni.hr (Underwater.hr) portal, marine life expert Pero Ugarkovic, also commented on the finding:

''Three months ago, I learned that an individual from Italy was preparing to publish a paper declaring this fish a resident of the Adriatic. These were several finds near Otranto. I published this on the portal and announced that we might expect to see this fish in Croatian waters this year. Today, that happened, the first official find was discovered and photographed by Damir on Vis.

The fish is Pterois miles, people sometimes call it the Lionfish or the Devil's Firefish. It will be constantly mentioned in the media because it is an invasive species that also has a poisonous sting, it will be said that it is a pest and that it is dangerous. There will probably be more and more of them, we'll see them in the underwater picture galleries. Everyone will know about them, even those who have never even seen the Adriatic. Once the population is established as in Greece, catching them will be celebrated and encouraged, some modest means will be invested in its suppression. They will be sold at the fish markets, and chefs will come up with recipes.

But in the end, we will have to accept this fish as a common occurrence here, as everything changes. For centuries, we've been trying to intensively and indiscriminately catch everything from the sea, fill it up, build it up and pollute it. Each new generation remembers a different, more primordial Adriatic of their youth that will never return. For some future generation, the Devil's Firefish may even become a symbol of Dalmatia,'' concluded Ugarkovic when discussing the presence of this fish near Komiza.

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Sunday, 1 August 2021

Stay Safe on Your Holiday: Croatian Wildlife and Marine Animals to Avoid

Aug 01, 2021 - Do not risk ruining your perfect holiday and learn about the potentially dangerous Croatian wildlife and marine animals you may encounter, albeit a small chance, during your trip to Croatia. Always remember: if it’s predictable, it’s preventable! Here’s a guide to potentially dangerous animals in Croatia, where they can be found, what to look out for, and what to do if you get attacked or bitten.

Snakes5D3A9644_1.jpg

Photo credit: Mario Romulić

There are currently 15 snake species that are known to inhabit Croatia, and only 3 of them are venomous. Two of these venomous snakes - karst meadow viper and common European adder - are generally considered harmless since their venom have low potency and do not pose a serious threat to normal and healthy humans. However, the horned viper has been linked to 4 fatal deaths in Croatia. Although these vipers exist throughout the country, they are mostly found in the coastal cities and stony mountains of Dalmatia. They can be identified by the distinctive zigzag pattern on their backs. The horned viper, locally known as poskok, has a horn on its snout where its name was derived from. Its body is usually gray, sometimes pinkish-grey, with a dark grey/black zigzag pattern from head to tail. Horned vipers are usually quiet but will attack when provoked. These snakes have also been reported to have the ability to jump at a distance of 5 feet and as high as 3 feet. On the other hand, the common European adders are mostly found on meadows and freshwater and river lowlands of the Sava, Drava, Mura and Danube. They are also found in mountainous areas such as Gorski Kotor. Meanwhile, the karst meadow vipers prefer higher altitudes so they are mostly found in the mountains of Dinara and Velebit.

What to do when you encounter a snake? Slowly back away from the creature - do not attempt to catch the snake or chase it away. It is also best to avoid tall grassy areas and if passing through one is unavoidable, wear sensible and protective footgear. Never stick your arms or legs into unknown, dark and hollow spaces or any rock, leaf and wood piles - these are snake's favourite hiding places! Lastly, always pay attention to your surroundings when climbing and hiking. For suspected snake bites, try to keep as still and calm as possible - a higher heart rate could cause the venom to spread faster. Tie a tourniquet from the bite towards the heart to delay the circulation of venom and seek medical assistance immediately!

BearsBrown_bear_1.jpgPhoto credit: By Marshmallow - https://www.flickr.com/photos/tmarschner/2728816091/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7080486

Croatia is full of forests and mountains, therefore, it makes an ideal home for the Croatian brown bear. It is highly unlikely to encounter them in established tourist attractions in Croatia but the risk goes higher around the mountainous regions of Gorski Kotar, Velebit, Lika, and even in the Biokovo and Mosor mountains of Dalmatia. Bears usually mind their own business and avoid humans, however, a mother bear with her cubs tends to attack any potential threats, even unprovoked. Nevertheless, only 3 bear attacks on humans in Croatia have been reported and all of them were non-fatal. 

To avoid accidentally encountering a bear, Ivor Kocelj, an official tour guide in Croatia suggests that during a hike, talking, listening to music, or even clapping allow bears to notice the human presence and flee in advance. If a bear is spotted from a distance and looked unprovoked, you may continue to observe it, in silence. If the bear is within close proximity, try to calm down, retreat in silence, avoid eye contact and wait for the bear to leave. Bears are attracted to food so minimize bringing food with a strong odour and store them properly. Also, never come close to a bear cub because mother bears are extremely protective. Lastly, ALWAYS follow the marked hiking trails - let the wild animals live undisturbed in their habitat!

Black Widow SpiderBlackWidow_1.jpgPhoto credit: By Camazine - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4809805

It is the most poisonous spider in Europe and is characterized by the distinctive red spots against its black back. In Croatia, they are found in the coastal areas of Istria, Dalmatia and Primorje. The spider's bite is reportedly almost painless with symptoms appearing a few hours later which can include spasms, immense pain and sometimes, paralysis. Even though the venom is poisonous, most healthy adults would not suffer any fatal effects but the children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are highly susceptible. Black widow spiders often live in bushes, under rocks and grassy areas so the reported cases of spider bites are usually from people who accidentally stepped on them while walking barefoot. Hence, it is always advisable to wear proper footwear when outdoors. For any suspected black widow spider bites, seek prompt medical assistance.

Scorpions1084px-Euscorpius_fg13_1.jpgPhoto credit: By Fritz Geller-Grimm - Vlastito djelo, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9854317

Few scorpion species are found in Croatia but the two most common species are the Euroscorpius Italicus and E. Germanus both of which are relatively harmless. Scorpions do not pose a serious threat to humans, however, a scorpion's venom may cause swelling, redness and itching around the area. The person may also experience severe pain, allergic reactions, tingling and numbness. These arachnids are mostly found in coastal, rather than continental, regions of Croatia. If stung by a scorpion, it is best to apply a cool compress on the affected area and a pain relief medication if needed. To be safe, have the bite checked by a medical professional, especially if it is on a child. Take note: scorpions are protected species in Croatia so do not kill them if you spot one!

TicksDog_tick_5148_1.jpgPhoto credit: By André Karwath aka Aka - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=131004

Ticks love wooded and grassy areas, as well as humid and warm environment - therefore, ticks can be found almost anywhere during spring and summer in Croatia. Most ticks in southern region of Croatia do not carry tick-borne illnesses. The ones who may transmit or cause infections such as Lyme disease, encephalitis and tick paralysis are active in May and June and are mostly found in forested regions of continental Croatia. To avoid getting bitten by these blood-sucking insects, it is best to wear full-length clothing and insect repellent especially during outdoor trips. If bitten and a tick is attached to your skin, grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible and pull it upward steadily using fine-tipped tweezers to safely remove the tick. Make sure not to leave any parts of the tick in your skin and clean the bite area, as well as your hands, with soap and water and rubbing alcohol. Remember to never crush a tick with your bare hands as it may transmit diseases. It is best to dispose a live tick in alcohol solution, place it in sealed container or flushing it down the toilet.

Sharks1080px-A_shortfin_mako_shark_swimming_in_an_aquarium.1_1.jpgPhoto credit: By 出羽雀台 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=107209573

With rich marine biodiversity, numerous species of sharks are found in the Adriatic waters with only two species - Mako and Great White sharks - are deemed dangerous to humans. According to Shark Attack Data, since the 1900s, there have been 11 reported fatal shark attacks in Croatia - the latest of which took place in 1974 in Omiš. The last recorded non-fatal shark attack was in 2008 near Vis Island. Nonetheless, the attacks in the Adriatic sea are extremely rare so it is still very safe for swimmers, surfers and divers.

The best way to avoid a shark attack is to take extra precautions when going to the sea. For starters, avoid swimming too far away from the coastline and do not wear bright jewellery because sharks might confuse it for a glistening fish, a.k.a, shark food. If a shark happens to be nearby, try not to panic and swim away vertically without making too much movements and noise. If a shark ends up attacking you and you are not alone, it is best to stay in a defensive position (back-to-back) to avoid surprise lunges from sharks. It is impossible to outswim a shark so your best bet is to make the shark see you as a strong and credible threat by throwing a jab at the shark's most vulnerable areas - gills, eyes and snout. Targeting these areas can cause the shark to retreat. Sharks rarely attack but when they do, it can be severely dangerous, even fatal; so the surest way to prevent shark-related incidence is to steer clear from shark-infested areas.

Sea UrchinsSea_urchin_upside_down_1.jpegPhoto credit: By Lacen - Croatia, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=248760

The presence of sea urchins is a sign of clean and unpolluted water, hence, it's no wonder that these spiky creatures are ubiquitous on the Adriatic Coast. Every tourist season, the public beaches in Croatia are often cleaned of sea urchins so most of them are found in secluded and natural beaches near the shores and around the rocks. Sea urchins are not poisonous but stepping on their spikes cause painful foot injury which can make the rest of your trip irritating and uncomfortable. Their spikes break easily and worse, they get stuck under the skin. The best way to prevent a sea urchin injury is to wear a pair of protective water shoes (warning: may trigger strong disapproval look from locals). If you accidentally stepped on a sea urchin, use tweezers to remove any spikes, although some will be too deep to be taken out. Afterwards, clean the affected area with soap and water but remember to leave it open and unbandaged. Use pain relievers if needed.

Jellyfish & Sea Anemone960px-20131206_Istanbul_018_1.jpgPhoto credit: By Mark Ahsmann - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30241025

Jellyfish are gelatinous sea creatures mostly made up of water, thus, they do not have good movement control. These creatures mostly float and are carried by sea currents so their presence is detected from time to time in the Adriatic sea. Unfortunately, when jellyfish end up in Adriatic coast, they come in huge numbers so jellyfish related injuries go up as well. However, most of the stinging incidents occur when a human accidentally brushes across a jellyfish while swimming. The jellyfish that are found in the Adriatic sea come from cnidarian family of which contain a number of species that are poisonous. The long tentacles of jellyfish are able to pierce through human tissue where their poison is transferred. Sea anemones are also found in the Adriatic shores, especially, the cylinder anemone. This type of anemone is often found in shallow waters and unlike jellyfish, sea anemones are sedentary and are attached to seabeds and rocks where humans can easily step on them.

A jellyfish and anemone sting may cause searing pain or severe burning sensation in the affected area and redness and rashes may also appear. Sometimes, the area swells and gets blistered, too. Some people have been reported to develop severe symptoms including eczema, violent itching, and darkened skin pigmentation. In very rare cases, jellyfish venom can lead to anaphylactic shock causing serious health risks. Depending on the severity of the situation, the first aid for a jellyfish sting is to wash it with salt water (freshwater can intensify the pain), and wash the injured area with vinegar or alcohol because these can block the poison from releasing further. There are also medications that reduce swelling and itching but the best treatment option is to get the injured area checked by a medical professional. 

Important note: Dead jellyfish can still sting so never touch one with bare hands!

Weever Fish Trachinus_draco_Karpathos_1.jpegPhoto credit: By Roberto Pillon - http://www.fishbase.de/photos/thumbnailssummary.php?ID=1363#, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25931842

The greater weever, locally known as pauk, is the most commonly found weever fish in the Adriatic sea. Other species from this family include starry weever, lesser weever and spotted weever, all of which are very rarely found since they prefer deeper areas and only approach the shores during mating season in winter. The greater weever poses the biggest hazard to humans because they often swim in shallow waters. The weevers have spikes on their gills and dorsal fins where their poison is located. Most incidents including greater weevers happen due to fishermen's carelessness and lack of knowledge or when a swimmer steps on the fish accidentally in the shallow waters. The venom of weever fish brings unbearable pain within 15 to 30 minutes of contact and swelling. The most common reactions to weever venom include loss of consciousness, nausea, loss of sensation in the affected area, elevated heart rate and breathing difficulties. The first aid for weever fish poisoning starts with removing the remaining spikes and disinfecting the area with clean water and soap. Afterwards, soak the area at the highest temperature one can endure for at least half an hour while being careful not to cause burns on the skin. Poison from weever fish is believed to be volatile in heat so this step is highly advisable to delay the spread of the poison until medical help arrives.

In general, the diverse and beautiful Croatian wildlife is very safe as long as you keep proper distance and safety measures from the wild animals. It is highly unlikely for you to come across these wildlife dangers, except maybe for sea urchins, but it is always best to stay alert and observe necessary precautions when travelling in unfamiliar places. Get acquainted with the list of numbers and responders in Croatia you may need to contact in case of emergency. Have a safe travel and remember, watch where you step!

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Monday, 14 June 2021

Croatian Divers Discover Dangerous Jellyfish in Istrian Waters

June the 14th, 2021 - A warning has been issued to swimmers in the southern Istrian part of the Adriatic after Croatian divers stumbled upon a dangerous type of jellyfish.

When swimming in the calm and peaceful Croatian Adriatic, it's difficult to imagine that anything could be lurking down in the depths where you can't see. The crystal clear waters allow for a view of all of the fish and other marine creatures living down below, but rarely do we imagine coming to some harm.

Although sharks do live in the Croatian Adriatic, they pose little to no threat and much prefer to avoid any contant with humans, making being able to see and film them a delight rather than the cause of a panic attack. The most common injury caused by a resident of the Adriatic is one by a sea urchin, who can pack a punch with its spikes when accidentally stepped on.

Jellyfish, however, are quite another story indeed, and a recent discovery is of a type which does more than deliver an uncomfortable but generally harmless sting.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Croatian divers spotted the dangerous jellyfish (Pelagia noctiluca) on Sunday in the south of Istria. Being stung by this jellyfish causes severe pain, and upon contact with human skin, the creature causes agonising injuries similar to burns that are then very difficult to heal.

This jellyfish, which has numerous names - the mauve stinger, the purple-striped jelly, the purple stinger, the purple people eater, the purple jellyfish, the luminous jellyfish and the night-light jellyfish, is a relatively small creature with a semicircular head and pink tentacles, sprinkled with tiny purple dots.

As stated, upon contact with human skin, severe pain occurs and injuries similar to burns appear, which are difficult to heal, followed by depigmentation of the skin and even deep scarring, local portal Glas Istre writes.

This jellyfish was spotted by the Croatian divers on Sunday in the bay of Velika Kolumbarica near the Kamenjak peninsula. Sea currents and waves sometimes carry these jellyfish to the shore, where they'd prefer not to be, and where they become a threat to swimmers.

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