An Australian woman was rushed to a Sydney hospital after a run-in with a deadly octopus whose bite is said to carry enough venom to kill 26 adult humans within minutes.

The unnamed woman, who is in her 30s, picked up a shell in shallow water at Chinamans Beach at Mosman, in North Sidney. The octopus fell out of the shell and bit the woman twice on her stomach, according to a Facebook post by New South Wales Ambulance, which responded to an emergency call on March 16.

“A blue-ringed octopus bite is a rare call for us, but they are extremely venomous,” said Inspector Christian Holmes. “The patient was experiencing some abdominal pain around the bite site, so paramedics applied pressure and a cold compress before taking her to Royal North Shore hospital to be monitored and treated for further symptoms.”

The blue-ringed octopus is considered one of the most venomous marine creatures in the world. Though only about the size of a half-dollar, they produce a venom reported to me more than 1,000 times stronger than cyanide. Because of their small size, their bite is often painless, but the toxin acts fast, causing respiratory arrest, heart failure, paralysis, blindness, and eventually death from suffocation. “The paralysis that overcomes the victim is only to their voluntary muscles; they remain fully conscious,” according to the Australian Institute of Marine Science. “Death usually occurs as a result of lack of oxygen. Thus, if mouth to mouth resuscitation is given to a victim of a blue-ringed octopus, they should fully recover.”

Found predominantly in shells and shallow tide pools from the Sea of Japan to the southern waters of Australia and from the Philippines to the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu, the blue-ringed octopus is named for iridescent blue spots on its body that become visible only when the normally docile cephalopod feels threatened and is about to bite. Comments from several Facebook members on the ambulance service post reported encounters with the creatures, including one that included a photograph of a blue-ringed octopus taken at Lake Macquarie, Australia’s largest coastal lagoon. The octopus is known to be responsible for the deaths of at least three people and near-death experiences in many others. Their venom contains tetrodotoxin, the same potent neurotoxin carried by the deadly pufferfish. There is no known antidote.

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