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Currents are washing more man o’ war ashore in Charleston area

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Portuguese Man O War (copy) (copy)

A Portuguese man o’ war on the beach at Sullivan’s Island in 2018. The animals are a common sight on Atlantic beaches. File/Provided 

KIAWAH ISLAND — Reports of Portuguese man o’ war sightings on Charleston-area beaches have increased in recent days.

Kiawah Island town spokeswoman Stephanie Edgerton said two have washed up recently on that beach.

People have also reported seeing man o’ war on Folly Beach, Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island.

The sea creatures are closely related to jellyfish and are known for their balloon-like float. They can be blue, purple or pink.

While they are rarely deadly to humans, the species’ sting could cause welts on exposed skin. The sting and venom are also capable of killing small fish, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“We typically see a few every year, usually during or following a storm, as they move wherever the current takes them,” Edgerton said through an email.

“The public should never touch a man o’ war since the tentacles can pack a powerful sting, even after it has washed ashore,” Edgerton said.

People are asked to notify the beach patrol if a man o’ war is spotted on Kiawah Island, so it can be removed.

Edgerton said, the man o’ war often is mistaken for a plastic bag in the water because of its balloon-like float and ability to sit up to about 6 inches above the water.

Chief Andrew Gilreath, director of public safety for Folly Beach, said the city has not received official reports of man o’ war sightings.

“If stung, rinse with as hot of water as the person can stand," Gilreath said. "Monitor them for signs of shock. Otherwise, you just have to wait out the venom.”

Gilreath said people visiting the beach may alert public safety officials to any sightings by phone or social media.

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