Reports have emerged of a 36-year-old man who worked as a tour guide on Pulau Pangkor being paralyzed in his left leg after a sea caterpillar sting while working on the island.
Mohd Fadzil Mohd Yunus, originally from Kampung Durian Hijau in Kelantan, was on the Perak island in December 2017 when the incident occurred. Waiting for a group of tourists along one of the island’s beaches, he felt a sting on his left foot.
“When I looked down at my foot, I saw a small, white-colored caterpillar.”
The insect that bit him was the Chloeia Flava, commonly referred to as the golden fireworm, which has been spotted along Malaysia’s west coast waters before. It measures between 7 and 10 cm (2.8–3.9 in) long, and 1.8 to 2.5 cm (0.7–1.0 in) wide, excluding its bristles.
At first, Mohd Fadzil complained that his legs were painful and itchy, but he didn’t think that the symptoms would result in such a severe prognosis. However, after two months his left leg had grown to twice of its original size.
Initially suspecting gout, he went to a local hospital that referred him to a larger medical center, where he received in-patient treatment for month. Doctors eventually contacted the Armed Forces Hospital in Lumut, on the mainland for examination.
He never recovered, with the condition progressing badly. Eventually, he asked to leave the hospital and receive follow-up treatment at a hospital on the mainland.
Having had several operations since the initial accident, he remains paralyzed with little hope for recovery. The ninth of 12 children, his 70-year-old mother survives on an RM200 (US$50) from social assistance.
The insect’s body is covered laterally with calcareous spines or setae, giving it a bristled aspect appearance.
They’re whitish, fine, sharp and venomous bristles are filled with toxins are capable of penetrating human skin easily. When threatened, these bristles will break off, sting and release toxins into the skin they’ve just punctured.
Symptoms include a burning sensation, severe irritation, inflammation, and numbness that can last for days to several weeks, that can lead to serious complications.