Can anyone tell me when pica-pica season is or if there is even a "season"? I've never had any trouble with them, but have heard stories about their stings. Thank you-Melissa
[This message has been edited by IslandinParadise (edited 09-26-2001).]
SUMMER MONTHS when the water is real warm.
Pica-Pica plagues Belizean bathers
It goes by many names, but there's no confusing the discomfort and disfigurement that first hits only after you've left the water. Jose Sanchez reports on a malady that will affect more and more Belizeans over the next few months.
Jose Sanchez, Reporting
The sea is one of the attractions that makes Belize and many other places in the Caribbean so enjoyable for both visitors and those of us lucky enough to live here. But that sea also has its dangers. Forget about sharks, stingrays and moray eels. Probably its biggest underwater enemy--especially during the hot summer months--is a condition known as pica-pica. According to Doctor Peter Craig, the cause of pica-pica comes from jellyfish.
Peter Craig, Clinical Dermatologist
"These adult jelly fish have small larva stages about the size of a pin head. And at times there are hundreds of these larvae in the sea. On exposure to these larvae, they get trapped into the swimming gear, the swim trunks, or bikinis. The causative factor is the release a nematocyst, which is a protective part of all of these creatures. It releases a harpoon with a thread under intense pressure that penetrates into the skin and into the dermis, and there you have the reaction beginning. The tip of this harpoon has toxins on it and it's our body's response to these toxins, which causes the clinical presentation."
That clinical presentation includes very intense itching, bumps and skin rashes that occurs once the person reaches the water. Some victims even experience fever and nausea. Just as the condition is known by various names, like sea bather's eruption and sea lice, according to James Azueta, of the Fisheries Department, pica-pica also has more than one suggested cause.
James Azueta, Co-ordinator, Ecosystems Management Unit
"Pica-Pica is actually caused by neurotoxins produced by bacterial blooms. This bacteria is also known as blue green algae. They do bloom during the hot weathers, we're getting into the hot months here in Belize and they do bloom at the same time with the sea thimbles, which are actually minute jellyfish. We cannot see the toxins in the water, but we can feel the effects, and we tend to blame the thimbles as pica-pica."
"The doctor was actually explaining to you the effects of jellyfish, where they actually stinging cells. The stinging cells, what they call nematocysts, they are the ones responsible. They go into the flesh and they stay in there then they have a reaction with the body. The body just tries to defend itself, that's why it itches and it swells and everything. That's common for the body to react to foreign bodies."
"So the outbreak that we have right now could be a combination of both."
"It could be a combination of both."
"The treatment of sea bathers eruption or pica-pica involves the use of topical creams and we use topical steroids. People with severe cases will need a short course of oral steroids for about five or seven days. There is a commercial preparation that people can buy over the counter, it's hydro cortisone cream that is one percent. That can be used, but in severe cases you will need a stronger topical steroid that is available by prescription."
"And it lasts for how long?"
"The eruption will last for two to three weeks and the bumps will eventually disappear."
"What can people to avoid pica-pica and the sea thimbles?"
"They should avoid areas of high concentration, with what we call sea moss. You can see them on calm days on top of the water, so just try to avoid these areas."
If you're still tempted to swim in the sea, it's important to remember that there is no product you can use to prevent an eruption once you run into the pica-pica. Reporting for News 5, Jose Sanchez.
Outbreaks of pica-pica have been reported virtually all over Belize, including Turneffe, St. George's Caye and Placencia. SCUBA divers who wear wet suits are not immune, as the tiny creatures easily get inside and make the condition even worse.
Posted By: JmHanna
Re: Peeka-Peeka - 09/27/01 12:05 AM
If you dive don't hang around the surface. They rarely extend below 3 feet. Leave the boat and don't surface. Upon you return come up right behind the boat and exit the sea---you will be pica pica free!!!
Posted By: Jane39
Re: Peeka-Peeka - 09/27/01 12:12 AM
bigzeke- when was this article published?
Don't know....something I posted way back in May.
Posted By: Jane39
Re: Peeka-Peeka - 09/27/01 12:31 AM
What if you just snorkel? Advice anyone?
I would hate to get this stuff first day of my vacation!
Posted By: Marty
Re: Peeka-Peeka - 09/27/01 01:01 AM
here's some info: //AmbergrisCaye.com/pages/town/picapica.html
Thanks for the info guys-I stand corrected on the spelling. It is strange that this season is in the summer months as that is when I always visit and have never been affected by these creatures. I don't dive, only snorkel-but I am a real water bug and spend 98% of my time in the ocean, glad they haven't ever gotten to me. Melissa
Posted By: bzgial
Re: Peeka-Peeka - 09/27/01 02:29 PM
Pica Pica is not common in the summer. I spend every summer in Belize (also spring and fall-I'm on my way back down this weekend). Pica pica algal and larvae blooms occur in the spring mostly. Usually starts showing up in in March and April and may last through May and sometimes into early Jne.
It does occur at the surface so snorkelers are most affected (I know, I had it really bad a couple of Easters ago while at South Water Caye and a mild case last spring at Glover's Atoll - I was smart then, I got out the water immediately)
Posted By: Marty
Re: Peeka-Peeka - 09/27/01 04:32 PM
Its more of a spring thing. and they don't bother me at all. I swim right into the middle of them. everybody goes eek eek and i just laugh.
they just don't get me. who knows why. maybe i stink! i don't get poison oak or ivy either, maybe i have a thick hide.
Posted By: karlyn
Re: Peeka-Peeka - 09/29/01 04:21 AM
I got pica pica in May while wearing a wetsuit and diving. Scratchy, puffy neck and chest (I first thought it was sunburn) and little bumps on my arms and legs. Our divemaster Carlos would put vaseline on his neckline before suiting up. The locals all said spray with windex or any alcohol based cleaner to diminsh itching and maybe counter- act p-p. I found cortisone cream the best for the itching. Bring some from home--all they had on AC was feminine itch cream! I was also told that divers will let out a blast of air before surfacing to move the p-p out of the way. It wasn't an awful experience, don't worry.
When we were there we had no problem with pica-pica; our problem was sea roaches. They looked like transparent little roaches, they would cling to us, not bite, but jump.
They didn't hurt us, but they were extremely annoying. In all my life I had never seen anything like this before.
I had pica pica several years ago when I was down in May. An old local lady, Mr. Forman's mother, told me to use green alcohol (has oil of wintergreen in it). Cleared it right up. Would rather have pica pica than bot flies!
Posted By: Fronna3
Re: Peeka-Peeka - 10/10/01 08:56 PM
when I visited in April there were a great many--thanks to the locals for warning me!
Posted By: Amerlee
Re: Peeka-Peeka - 10/28/01 11:46 PM
I just returned from Belize on the 23rd and while swimming, diving, or snorkeling I must have gotten into Peeka-Peeka. A small patch appeared on my face and was very itchy. I put Neosporin on it and was later told that vinegar works well also. Fortunately mine wasn't too uncomfortable, but I do still have a little mark.
Posted By: lmarquis
Re: Peeka-Peeka - 10/30/01 06:38 PM
I was there for a week this last May and in and out of the water daily, many times. I snorkeled too, and never had problems with pica pica.
Posted By: sunrise
Re: Peeka-Peeka - 10/30/01 09:47 PM
I found a product called Safe Sea in an airline magazine that claims to guard against Pica Pica and Jellyfish. I ordered some put have not tried it out yet. Check it out at: www.nidaria.com
It even comes with spf 15 or spf 30.