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Plumeria bark and hot water antidote in Cook Islands

By Helen Greig RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Nov. 27, 2009) - Stonefish are the most venomous fish in the world -- and one little Kiwi boy was lucky to escape its dangerous and sometimes fatal sting at Muri on Wednesday.

The boy reportedly aged between 10 and 12 is in Rarotonga with his parents, who are part of a New Zealand paddling team taking part in the Vaka Eiva Festival.

It is understood the boy had been swimming on the sea side of motu Koromiri when he stood on the stonefish.

Aitutaki couple Junior and Terangi Tamati, also here for Vaka Eiva (as the coaches of the Aitutaki junior teams taking part in the Mapu Oe Vaka competition), were among those who were first to offer help and spent about an hour treating the boy’s foot which had been punctured by one of the poisonous needle-like spines of the stonefish.

"We put vinegar and hot water on it and squeezed most of the poison out. He was in real pain but today (yesterday) he was good -- walking around again -- he came to see us to say he’ll be wearing shoes if he goes out there again," said Terangi.

While the ambulance was called for the emergency, it arrived just as locals decided to drive the boy to hospital themselves shortly before 2 p.m.

The young boy was then transported in the ambulance and treated at the hospital emergency room. He was later released after being given the all clear.

"In Aitutaki we use a medicine made of the bark of the tipani tree and hot water to treat the stings. We see more of the stonefish in summer so wearing reef shoes is a good way to avoid being stung," says Terangi.

[PIR editor’s note: The Tipani tree is also known as moreare frangipani, or plumeria.]

The recommended treatment for stings includes using heat on the affected area and in more extreme cases antivenom. The stonefish sting cases ‘excruciating pain’ and rapid swelling causing the body tissue to die. Other symptoms of the venom are muscle weakness, temporary paralysis and shock which can result in death.

Earlier this week Aitutaki MP Terepai Maoate Jnr also stood on a stonefish and escaped serious injury. Maoate also attended parliament this week – albeit with a limp and a heavily bandaged left foot.

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