Child stabbed in chest by catfish barb flown to Florida hospital after 'difficulty breathing'

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A child is recovering in Florida after being stabbed in the chest by a catfish barb, fire officials reported Tuesday.

The victim, whose name, age and gender were not released, was stabbed Monday in New Port Richey, about 40 miles northwest of Tampa, Pasco County Fire Rescue spokesman Corey Dierdorff told USA TODAY.

Details including where the child was when the injury occurred were not immediately known by fire officials, Dierdoff said.

But Dierdoff said, while headed to a hospital, the child's mother pulled over and dialed 911 to report her child was "experiencing difficulty breathing."

Firefighters responded to the scene and listed the child as a trauma alert after they said they determined the catfish stinger lodged about 1 to 1 ½ inches deep in the child’s chest cavity.

The child was airlifted to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa to be treated for critical injuries.

The child, who Dierdorff said is under the age of 10, was most recently listed in stable condition.

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According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, catfish live in both freshwater and salt water and are not aggressive.

Venomous catfish stings are a common environmental hazard worldwide, according to the National Library of Medicine. Stings can result in severe pain, infection, respiratory issues, cardiac problems and more.

"Most species of catfish have a single spine-like fin ray at the end of each pectoral and dorsal fin. They are not true spines, but are sharp enough to cause a painful puncture if not handled correctly," Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation SW Region Public Information Director Melody Kilborn told USA TODAY Tuesday.

Most often, a sting occurs in the hands while attempting to hold the catfish, Kilborn said.

Kilborn said she is unaware of any recent fatalities due to catfish but the wildlife conservation does not track that information.

Dierdorff said officials do not know what type of catfish stung the child, but catfish sharp barbs should be avoided.

"Those barbs, even to get hit in the leg is (very) painful," said Dierdorff, who said he has been stung in the leg by a catfish. "I can't imagine what it feels like to be stung in the chest."

Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at nalund@usatoday.com and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Child stabbed in chest by catfish barb flown to Florida hospital

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