Florida swimmers: Here's how to avoid shark bites

Tips to help keep you safe in the water

By Adrienne Cutway - Web Editor

ORLANDO, Fla. - While Florida isn't exactly the backdrop for "Jaws," the Sunshine State does top the world when it comes to yearly shark bites.

In 2016, the most recent year for which statistics were available, 32 people in Florida were attacked by sharks, according to the International Shark Attack File. Most of those attacks occurred in Volusia County, and blacktip and bull sharks have historically accounted for 40 percent of the incidents.

Granted, these sharks aren't like the bloodthirsty beasts you see in Hollywood films, but rather they're confused creatures looking for their next snack.

Most times, it only takes a nibble for a shark to realize that human flesh isn't what's on the menu but when we're talking about an apex predator with more than a dozen rows of teeth, that brief bite can cause significant damage.

[READ: The most dangerous things to watch out for at Florida beaches]

There were no fatal shark attacks in Florida or the U.S. in 2017, but documented injuries include loss of limbs, lacerations and severe puncture wounds.

Experts estimate that the average swimmer has a 1 in 11.5 million chance of being bitten by a shark, but there are steps that can be taken to reduce those odds even further.

Below is a list tips, provided by the International Shark Attack File, that can help you avoid being bitten by a shark:

  • There really is safety in numbers so be sure to swim in a group since sharks are more likely to attack a lone individual.
  • Stay relatively close to the shore to prevent further isolating yourself and to stay need medical assistance, if it becomes necessary.
  • Avoid going in the water if you are bleeding or have an open wound.
  • Take off your jewelry before going in the water. To a shark, your bling might look like the shiny scales of a fish.
  • Water with known effluents, sewage and areas used by fisherman should be avoided, particularly if there are signs of bait fishing or feeding activity. Diving birds can be a good indicator of that kind of activity.
  • Dolphins and sharks eat the same prey so a nearby porpoise could mean sharks frequent that water as well.
  • Wearing bright swimwear in murky water could attract sharks because they see contrast well.
  • Avoid excessive splashing or erratic movements.
  • Between sandbars and near steep drop offs are areas where sharks tend to hang out, so be cautious and vigilant in those areas.

In the unlikely event a shark does sink its teeth into your skin, punch the predator between the eyes and try to swim to safety. Clawing at the creature's eyes and gills is also recommended because those areas are sensitive.

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