Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably heard that a swimmer in California was attacked by a great white shark over the weekend. But it’s still no reason to stay out of the water this summer. Here’s what happened, plus why you shouldn’t freak out.
Steven Robles, 50, was in a group of about 15 long-distance swimmers off Southern California’s Manhattan Beach when a 7-foot-long shark latched onto his rib cage. The Associated Press reports that a person fishing on a nearby pier had hooked the shark and was trying to reel it in when it became agitated. Robles reportedly swam right into the fishing line.
Robles told People that he grabbed the shark’s nose and tried to pry it off him and it swam away. He was treated by paramedics and received stitches on his chest and thumb and was released from the hospital on Sunday. “Fortunately, the bite didn’t go into any organs and I didn’t crack any ribs,” he told People. “I’m very thankful I’m alive. This absolutely could have been it.” (Watch the Time.com video about the shark attack, above.)
Yes, shark attacks are terrifying, but fear of a Jaws-like encounter shouldn’t keep you from swimming. The National Safety Council says there were 47 shark attacks in the United States in 2013 (keep in mind that’s among the 200 million people that visit our beaches every year). Overall, your chances of death by shark attack are about 1 in 3.7 million, even less likely than getting struck by lightning (that’s 1 in 500,000). The Los Angeles Times reports that from 2001 to 2013, just 12 people in the United States have died following shark attacks. To be honest, sharks should be more scared of YOU—for every human killed by a shark, there are about 25 million sharks killed by humans, according to Oceana.org.
Bottom line: Hit the beach, but use common sense. If a lifeguard warns there’s a shark nearby or you spot one yourself, get out of the water immediately. If you want to reduce your risk even further, you can avoid swimming in deep water, during twilight hours, or near steep drop-offs.