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Jellyfish put sting into holiday weekend at some Florida beaches

By Vivian Kuo, CNN
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400 people stung by jellyfish
  • Beaches from Cocoa Beach to Cape Canaveral are affected, rescue officials say
  • More than 800 people have been stung, they say
  • None of the stings is believed to be serious

(CNN) -- Hundreds of people trying to enjoy the Memorial Day weekend on Atlantic beaches in central Florida encountered an unwelcome surprise: swarms of purplish, stinging jellyfish.

More than 800 people at beaches from Cocoa Beach to Cape Canaveral have been stung, Brevard County Ocean Rescue officials said.

Assistant Chief Eisen Witcher said the reports began coming in Friday, but as the Memorial Day weekend got into full swing, the numbers increased dramatically.

"Saturday, we got about 200 reports. Sunday, we got another 250," he said.

All weekend long, countless numbers of jellyfish washed up on shores, standing out against the sand due to their distinctive hue.

"They're very visible because of their color," Witcher said. "They come in large amounts, very large groups."

Witcher said Brevard County shores are more familiar with Portuguese man o' war and cannonball jellyfish, not this current species, which he said he believes are called mauve stingers.

"This time of year, this can happen when the conditions are perfect for jellyfish to wash up. You have an onshore breeze combined with an east swell."

The stings cause itching, burning and rashes and can sometimes spur an allergic reaction.

Although none of the stings was believed to be serious, officials said two people who were stung were taken to hospitals after suffering from respiratory distress. It was unclear whether the distress was directly caused by the sting or came from a pre-existing medical condition.

"Most of the stings are being reported on the ankles, but others have been getting it on the chest, arms, you name it," Witcher said.

He said victims were being treated by a vinegar solution stocked at the various lifeguard stations.

"We have that solution there at all times, but we knew that we were going to have a lot of people out here this weekend," Witcher said. "These jellyfish are not a major threat, but they are annoying."