• 9 facts: Shark attacks -- safety tips, comparable statistics

    By: Irene Sans

    Updated:

    Sharks have made several appearances near local beaches in the past few weeks and with the year-round tourists and weekend getaways for inland residents, more people could become their prey.

     

    For sharks, anyone can become bait. But there are activities and even clothing articles that can make you more prone to a shark bite if you are in the water with a shark around.

    What are the statistics on shark attacks?

     

    1. Alligator vs. sharks: According to data from The Florida Museum, across the Southeastern U.S., there is a fatality rate of 4.3% in alligator attacks and 5% in shark attacks.
    2. Lightning vs. sharks: Between 1959 and 2010 in the United States, a total of 1,970 fatalities due to lightning and 26 fatalities due to shark attacks. There were 974 shark attacks in this same period. Take into consideration that a lot more people are likely exposed to lightning than swimming at the beaches.
    3. Florida boating vs. shark: From 2002 to 2013 there were 8,979 boating accidents in Florida, and 261 shark attacks. In the same period there were 782 boating fatalities and shark attacks left two people dead. The fatality rate is eight times higher for boating accidents than shark attacks, 8.7% vs. 0.77%, respectively.

     

    Overall, if we consider the average life expectancy of a person born in 2003, and the population of the U.S. that year, you have: a 1 in 3,748,067 chance of death after a shark attack. That’s a lower chance than for the incidents below.

     

    DISEASE AND ACCIDENTAL CAUSES OF DEATHS

    ANNUAL DEATHS

    DEATH RISK DURING ONE'S LIFETIME

    Heart disease

    652,486

    1 in 5

    Cancer

    553,888

    1 in 7

    Stroke

    150,074

    1 in 24

    Hospital Infections

    99,000

    1 in 38

    Flu

    59,664

    1 in 63

    Car accidents

    44,757

    1 in 84

    Suicide

    31,484

    1 in 119

    Accidental poisoning

    19,456

    1 in 193

    MRSA (resistant bacteria)

    19,000

    1 in 197

    Falls

    17,229

    1 in 218

    Drowning

    3,306

    1 in 1,134

    Bike accident

    762

    1 in 4,919

    Air/space accident

    742

    1 in 5,051

    Excessive cold

    620

    1 in 6,045

    Sun/heat exposure

    273

    1 in 13,729

    Lightning

    47

    1 in 79,746

    Train crash

    24

    1 in 156,169

    Fireworks

    11

    1 in 340,733

    Shark attack

    1

    1 in 3,748,067

     

    Data since 1837 shows that Florida is the state with the most shark attacks in the nation, 828 attacks, followed by Hawaii and California. Here are 9 facts to reduce your chances of being attacked by a shark:

     

    1. Swim in groups. Sharks are more likely to attack someone swimming alone.
    2. Sharks are most active during dawn and dusk. Avoid swimming during these times.
    3. Sharks have a keen ability to smell blood. Do not enter the water when bleeding with open wounds or while menstruating.
    4. Shiny jewelry might resemble the sheen of fish scales and attract sharks. Avoid wearing jewelry.
    5. Murky, contaminated waters, especially waters used for any type of fishing, signal food for sharks. For this same reason you should avoid swimming where people are fishing.
    6. High contrast color clothing or gear is especially visible to sharks, the contrast draws a shark's attention.
    7. Erratic movements like excess splashing draw a shark’s attention.
    8. Swim near the shore, stay away from the area between sandbars near steep drop-offs. Sharks love these areas.
    9. Never harass a shark.

     

    And as usual, always swim near a lifeguard.

     

    Statistics and data provided by The Florida Museum

     

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