Woman Bitten By Deadly Blue-Ringed Octopus Will Survive

On March 16, a blue-ringed octopus bit a woman swimming at a beach in Sydney, Australia. The palm-sized octopus is one of the most venomous creatures on earth.

The woman picked up a shell while swimming and one of the tiny octopuses was sheltering inside it. As she picked it up, the octopus fell out and swiftly bit her several times on the stomach. Paramedics rushed to the scene and found the woman suffering from severe abdominal pain. The medics took her to hospital where she is reportedly in a stable condition and will recover.

Limited treatment

Initially, a bite from a blue-ringed octopus is relatively painless, but the venom they inject contains tetrodotoxin, a neurotoxin that can cause respiratory arrest, heart failure, paralysis, and death. The neurotoxin kicks in anywhere between 20 minutes and 24 hours after the bite. 

Healthcare professionals can do very little to help. They can only offer general pain medication and the use of a ventilator. The ventilator seems to be key to survival. The venom paralyzes muscles, including those involved in breathing.

“First, the venom blocks nerve signals throughout the body, causing muscle numbness,” scientists at the Ocean Conservancy told The Inertia. “Other symptoms include nausea, vision loss, loss of other senses, and loss of motor skills. Ultimately, it will cause muscle paralysis, leading to respiratory arrest. There is no known antidote but medics can save victims if they begin artificial respiration immediately.”

A blue-ringed octopus.

The blue-ringed octopus only shows its rings when it feels threatened. Photo: Shutterstock


The size of a ping-pong ball

The octopuses are not much larger than a ping-pong ball but contain enough venom to kill 26 adult humans. At least three people have died from their bites since the 1960s. Two of those deaths were in Australia. 

The blue-ringed octopus’s neurotoxin helps them catch prey. They produce venom from their salivary glands. When they come across crabs, shrimp, or any little fish they fancy, they can use their beak to dole out some venom. The neurotoxin paralyzes their prey.

Though these little octopuses are incredibly venomous, they are quite docile animals. Their blue rings only appear when they feel threatened. It is a warning sign that they may bite. Most of the time, the species will ignore humans completely. It tries to hide in the sand around coral reefs and shallow waters.

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca McPhee is a freelance writer for ExplorersWeb.

Rebecca has been writing about open water sports, adventure travel, and marine science for three years. Prior to that, Rebecca worked as an Editorial Assistant at Taylor and Francis, and a Wildlife Officer for ORCA.

Based in the UK Rebecca is a science teacher and volunteers for a number of marine charities. She enjoys open water swimming, hiking, diving, and traveling.