Two operations and 30 stitches for boy attacked by puffer

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A five-year-old boy suffered horrific injuries after he was attacked by a puffer fish.

Tom Horn was wading in shallow water with his family off the beach on Thursday Island, near Queensland, Australia, when a 30cm/12" puffer attacked his feet.

The fish took huge chunks of flesh out of his feet, leading to 30 stitches and two operations, along with a two-week stay in hospital on antibiotics, to guard against any infection.

"They were unbelievable wounds, the ball of his left big toe was missing and a chunk of flesh was missing out of his right heel,'' said Tom's father, Senior Sergeant Jamie Horn, who is officer-in-charge of Thursday Island police. "You would not think a little puffer fish could be so vicious."

The species of puffer fish concerned was thought to be Feroxodon multistriatus, also known as the Ferocious puffer fish, due to the fact that it has been known to make unprovoked attacks on humans.

Marine expert Dr Peter Doherty, research director at the Townsville-based Australian Institute of Marine Science, who has also been attacked by a puffer fish, almost losing a finger, said that one point of contact between humans and the fish was in shallow places such as water around boat ramps.

"It is more like accidental contact and being in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said.

Surgeons plan to write a report for a medical journal to document Tom Horn's rare case.

Fortunately, his wounds have healed very well and his father says he's not scared of going back in the water at all.

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