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Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Spearfishing and Shark Attack

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Even though it's still winter on the east coast of the U.S., it won't be long until spring is here and people begin heading for the beach. The "snowbirds" continue to flock to Florida and many of my friends are heading off on dive vacations. This all reminds me of a story that appeared in the news nearly a year ago. According to the report, a man was attacked by a 7-foot bull shark while spearfishing. His wife saved him from bleeding to death. Like other newsworthy individuals, he wound up on at least one talk show.

As told by the victim, the shark appeared "out of nowhere" and attacked the unfortunate spearfisherman, biting him on the arm. He tried punching the shark, but it didn't release him at first. By the time the shark was finished, the man's arm was "mangled."

His wife, who was in the boat and weighed considerably less than the victim, hauled anchor, raced to her husbands side and pulled him into the boat. Then she fashioned a tourniquet from a towel to try to control the bleeding. Her first aid was sufficient to save her husband's life, so that he could undergo surgery. According to one of the surgeons who operated on the man, he was lucky, because the shark bite was close to severing an artery.

This story is a good reminder about advice for avoiding shark attack:

Shark Avoidance

  1. Avoid shark-infested waters, particularly at dusk and after dark. Do not dive in known shark feeding grounds.
  2. Swim in groups. Sharks tend to attack single swimmers.
  3. When diving, avoid deep drop-offs, murky water, or areas near sewage outlets.
  4. Be very careful when spearfishing in the vicinity of sharks. Do not tether captured (speared, for example) fish to your body.
  5. Do not corner or provoke sharks.
  6. If a shark appears, leave the water with slow, purposeful movements. Do not panic or splash. If a shark approaches you while you are diving in deep water, attempt to position yourself so that you are protected from the rear. If a shark moves in, attempt to strike a firm blow to the snout.
  7. If you are stranded at sea and a rescue helicopter arrives to extract you from the water, exit the water at the earliest opportunity.
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Tags: Bites & Stings , In the Water

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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.

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