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Portuguese man-of-war alert issued for Edgartown beach

South Beach is open again, but risk remains

Several Portuguese men-of-war like this one were reported on South Beach in Edgartown in Martha’s Vineyard this week. Two lifeguards went to the hospital with stings.

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Several Portuguese men-of-war like this one were reported on South Beach in Edgartown in Martha’s Vineyard this week. Two lifeguards went to the hospital with stings.

Officials on Martha’s Vineyard are cautioning beachgoers to beware of the painful stings of the Portuguese man-of-war.

South Beach in Edgartown was closed at about 11 a.m. on Wednesday because a flurry of men-of-war — purplish balloon-like creatures — were spotted at the beach, said Marilyn Wortman, Edgartown parks administrator.

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The beach reopened at 9:20 a.m. on Thursday. But the parks department cautioned beachgoers to look closely for the creatures, emphasizing that people are swimming at their own risk.

“We have warned you, but we can’t stop you from going in the water,” Wortman said “We just caution people to watch where they are swimming.”

At least 12 men-of-war were scooped up off South Beach Wednesday, and two lifeguards patrolling the beach were both stung. They both went to the hospital for their stings but were released that evening, Wortman said.

Wortman said she believed men-of-war were floating all along the southern coast of the island.

Gary Tripp, assistant harbormaster in Westport on the south coast of the state, said he had received a report of a man-of-war sighting in the Westport River within the last week.

The men-of-war are coming close to shore because of the direction of currents and winds on the Massachusetts coast, said Steve Melo, harbormaster in neighboring Dartmouth.

“They are moving with the winds and the current,” Melo said. “Their inflatable bladder catches the wind, which brings them close to shore.”

Man-of-war stings are known to be painful and long-lasting, though reactions vary, Melo said.

“Variable human conditions might have someone in dire straits after a sting, while someone else will only be mildly inconvenienced,” Melo said.

No beaches have been closed in the Westport or Dartmouth areas, Tripp and Melo said.

Jasper Craven can be reached at jasper.craven@globe.com or on Twitter @Jasper_Craven
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