Marine envenomations in returning French travellers seen in a tropical diseases unit, 2008–13

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Background: Travel and aquatic activities are increasing in tropical regions. The risk and the spectrum of marine envenomation are unknown in travellers. This work aims to evaluate the prevalence and the characteristics of marine envenomations in returning travellers.

Methods: We retrospectively studied the medical charts of all returning travellers presenting with a health problem in a French tropical disease unit between 2008 and 2013, with focus on travellers complaining of marine envenomation. Characteristics of each type of envenomation are described.

Results: Of the 3315 travellers seen during the study period, 43 consulted for a presumed marine envenomation. Six patients were excluded, leaving 37 cases of confirmed marine envenomation. It corresponds to a prevalence of 1.1%. Sex ratio was balanced with 18 men and 19 women. Median age was 42 years (range 25–68 years). Median travel duration was 14 days (range: 6–62 days). The main travel destination was Southeast Asia in 10 cases, followed by islands of East Africa in seven cases. Median elapsed time between envenomation and consultation was 14 days (range: 2–130 days). The purpose of travel was tourism in all cases. The main clinical aspects were oedema, sting marks, cellulitis and flagellations. Eleven cases were presumably caused by corals, 10 by stonefish, 8 by jellyfish, 2 by weever fish, 2 by starfish, 2 by stingray, 1 by lionfish and 1 by sea anemone.

Conclusion: Prevalence of marine envenomation is low in returning travellers. They are mostly caused by corals, stonefish and jellyfish.

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