Shark bites 8-year-old North Carolina boy: How attacks can be prevented

This marks the fourth shark attack off the coast of North Carolina in the past two weeks. How common are such attacks and how can they be avoided? 

Chuck Burton/AP
A woman stands in the surf on the beach in Oak Island, N.C., June 15. There have been four shark attacks off the coast of North Carolina in the past four weeks.

For the fourth time in two weeks someone has been attacked by a shark off a North Carolina beach. Despite this recent surge, experts say that such shark attacks are rare.

An 8-year-old boy was bitten by a shark Wednesday while swimming in knee-deep water in Surf City, N.C., the Associated Press reported.

Town Manager Larry Bergman said that the boy had minor wounds on his lower leg, heel, and ankle.

The Surf City does not have an official lifeguard staff, but some police officers and water-rescue-trained firefighters who patrol the beaches on ATVs. Mr. Bergman says people swim “kind of at their own risk.”

This is the fourth recent shark attack in shallow water in North Carolina. On June 11, a 13-year-old girl suffered small cuts from a shark bite at Ocean Isle Beach. Three days later, two teenagers were injured off the coast of the Oak Island beach in two separate, successive attacks.

Director of the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History, George Burgess, says that shark attacks, especially successive ones, are very rare.

He told the Star News Online that in 40 years of studying the animal he had seen only two cases of successive shark attacks: One in Florida 15 or 20 years ago, and another in Egypt in 2010.

The worldwide yearly average for unprovoked shark attacks on humans is 75, about 10 of which result in death, according to Florida Museum of Natural History. The US sees about 19 shark attacks a year and one fatality every two years.

Based on the museum’s data, North Carolina has had only 25 shark attacks since 2005, none of them fatal.

People can decrease the small chance of becoming a victim of a shark attack by being proactive about their own safety. Florida Museum of Natural History has some tips: Swim in a group since sharks most often attack lone individuals. Sharks can smell and taste blood, so do not enter the water bleeding.

Shiny jewelry can attract sharks, as the reflected light resembles shiny fish scales, and colorful swimwear also tends to appeal to sharks.

In the end as Burgess writes in a blog post, shark attacks are not as common as it is perceived and one has "a better chance of dying from a bee sting, a dog or snake bite, or lightning than from a shark attack."

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