11-Year-Old Girl and 57-Year-Old Woman Bitten by Sharks in Florida: What You Need to Know About Surviving an Attack

There are important precautions you can take to prevent an attack from happening


An 11-year-old girl was bitten by a shark on Saturday while wading in waist-deep water in Jacksonsville, Florida.

While swimming at Huguenot Memorial Park, the young girl was bitten on her back, arm and hand, according to CBS 47 News. She’s currently at home while she awaits surgery.

A nurse who happened to be at the beach when the attack occurred covered the girl’s wounds while her uncle got a patrol truck to help.

The young girl’s mother told the news outlet that her daughter has five teeth marks on her back and a large laceration that severed a tendon in her left arm.

Despite her injuries, she was able to high-five the first responders with her uninjured hand before she was rushed to the hospital, where she spent nine hours in the trauma unit.

Just one day later, a 57-year-old woman was also attacked by a shark. Mary Marcus was bitten on her upper thigh while swimming in Vero Beach, Florida, according to ABC News. She was reportedly swimming about 100 yards off shore in an area known as “shark alley.”

Marcus was able to swim back to shore after the attack and was taken to the hospital and released later in the day with stitches and antibiotics.

Hospital staff described the injury as an exploratory shark bite, according to police, which is when a shark swims away after one bite, reports ABC News.

Just last week, a two-foot nurse shark latched onto a woman s arm in Boca Raton and wouldn t let go. The 23-year-old victim ran out of the water with it still attached to her right forearm.

The number of shark attacks was at a worldwide high in 2015 with 98 unprovoked attacks. Florida reported 30 shark attacks in 2015 – the most of any state in the U.S.

Shark expert Larry Cahoon tells PEOPLE that despite the onset of recent attacks, beachgoers shouldn’t avoid the ocean.

“You have a higher chance of getting into a car accident driving to the beach than you do getting attacked by a shark when you get there,” Larry Cahoon, professor of biology and marine biology at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, tells PEOPLE. “The fact is that sharks have millions of contact hours with humans on beaches every year, yet attacks are really rare. Just be smart.”

But when they do attack, just swim back to shore as fast as you can, he advises.

“People say to swim slowly back to shore, but what is that going to do? Swim to shore as fast as you can – shark that means to eat you will keep coming. You need to call for help. People who survive all but the least damaging shark attacks got immediate help from others,” he says. “Basically, don’t swim alone in shark waters.”

When it comes to fending off a shark, Cahoon says punching it in the nose, gills or eyes won’t do much good.

“A 10-foot bull shark will weigh close to 500 pounds and is essentially all muscle. What chance would anyone have?” says Cahoon. “You won’t be thinking rationally even if you have the opportunity to punch it, so just focus on getting back to land.”

Although Cahoon says there isn’t much you can do once you’re in the water, there are important precautions you can take to prevent an attack from happening in the first place.

“Sharks hear very well. They know you’re swimming, they know where you are and they normally don’t care,” he says. “But the one thing that changes the dynamic is if sharks hear fish struggling when fishers are reeling them in.”

That’s the moment Cahoon says to stay out of the water.

“That’s a dinner bell to them and they can get very interested in eating,” he says. “That’s when they’re probably more likely to attack a human, either from mistaken identity of from being actually interested in eating something that’s close by.”

There is some data that shows most attacks occur during dusk or dawn, but at the end of the day, Cahoon says it can happen at any time.

“Don’t avoid certain colors, enjoy the ocean and know your surroundings,” he says. “They might follow surfers, but it’s because they’re curious. Sharks can’t see well and if they attack people close to shore, it’s because they’re confused. By the time they know you’re a person, it’s too late.”

Cahoon adds: “If you’re bleeding, get out of the water or you will quickly become their dinner.”

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