back to top

An Australian Teenager's Legs Were Eaten By Sea Fleas And Everyone Is Traumatised

I feel ill. Warning: This article contains graphic images.

Posted on

This is 16-year-old Australian teenager Sam Kanizay. On Saturday, he decided to cool off after football with a quick dip in the ocean at Dendy Street Beach in Brighton (a suburb in Melbourne).

After about half an hour in the water Sam's legs felt numb and tingly, but he assumed it was from playing sport. When he emerged from the sea, however, he noticed his legs were covered in blood.

AAP Image / Jarrod Kanizay

"My first instinct was that I must have stepped on a rock," Sam told The Age. "But I realized that couldn't have been it, because it was evenly distributed over my whole ankle and foot."

"I wasn't really thinking about being eaten."

Sam walked home and washed the blood from his legs but they wouldn't stop bleeding – so his father, Jarrod, drove him to hospital.

AAP / Jarrod Kanizay

"We had the emergency room full of everybody that was working there just fascinated, they were all on Google afterwards, hypothesising as to what happened. They pretty much had 10 different hypotheses but nothing yet," Jarrod told The Age.

Jarrod said he often swam at the beach "and I haven't seen this happen before".

Bothered by the mystery surrounding his son's wounds, Jarrod returned to the beach with some raw steak and a net.

And what he found might keep you out of the ocean for a while.

SEA FLEAS! Sam's legs were probably eaten by sea fleas!

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

"We found thousands of little mite-type creatures in our net," Jarrod told The Age. "We put them in an Esky and brought them home and looked at them intently and let them swim in white dishes with red meat.

"Interestingly, overnight they've essentially all clung to the meat and have been busy overnight eating it."

Museum Victoria marine scientist Dr Genefor​ Walker-Smith examined the bugs caught by Jarrod and thinks they are sea fleas.

youtube.com

She told The Age the fleas were the most likely culprit for Sam's wounds. She added that the number of bites was unusual but that sea fleas are common both in Australia and around the world.

"They're there all the time; you could put a piece of meat in the water, anywhere in the bay, and you could find them," Dr Walker-Smith said.

"I think this is quite a rare thing. I really just think [Sam] was in the wrong place at the wrong time, probably."

Dr Walker-Smith said the fleas were no cause of alarm but that swimmers should avoid swimming near dead fish which the fleas feed on.

A Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning spokesman said sea fleas were a "common and natural part of a healthy marine ecosystem" that "keep our marine waters clean by consuming dead and dying marine animals".

"DELWP advises swimmers to wear a wetsuit with boots to reduce the risk of being exposed to sea fleas and avoid swimming at night."

Sam's story caused quite the reaction within the local community in Brighton.

AFL players have been told to steer clear of the beach after horrific sea fleas incident https://t.co/lF9Lw4EzTf

Members of local sports clubs were given advice to stay out of the water until the mystery was solved, and many locals said they were hesitant to return to the water even after discovering what caused Sam's injuries.

And people were also freaking out on social media.

@Marc_McHardy @lqpharriet Yeah, I'm adding "bleeding out due to giant sea fleas" to my list of nightmare scenarios.

Dear god! Aussy teen attacked by sea fleas suffers "war-like" injury. Apparently we not to be alarmed. Too late.… https://t.co/MXjKA7EuHJ

@BBCWorld This lad looks for cool, like was nothing. I'd be fainting, for sure. What the heck, Australia? Even our sea fleas are deadly.

as if australia wasnt dangerous enough, now we have microscopic flesh eating sea fleas that live in sand on beaches noice

Just read the words 'sea fleas' and I honestly want to have a bleach bath

  1. Are you too terrified to swim in the ocean now?

An Australian Teenager's Legs Were Eaten By Sea Fleas And Everyone Is Traumatised

Take quizzes and chill with the BuzzFeed app.
Get the app
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
Are you too terrified to swim in the ocean now?
  1.  
    vote votes
  2.  
    vote votes
  3.  
    vote votes

Alicia Melville-Smith is a homepage editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Alicia Melville-Smith at alicia.melville-smith@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.