Shark attacks 8-year-old boy at North Carolina beach

Reuters/Hugh Gentry
Swimming in only knee-deep waters, an eight-year-old boy was bitten on the lower leg, heel, and ankle and suffered minor injuries from a shark attack. It is the fourth shark attack in the shallow waters off North Carolina’s beaches in the past two weeks.

The boy was swimming five blocks from a fishing pier in Surf City, North Carolina when he was attacked on Wednesday. Emergency personnel treated his wounds at the scene, and later his parents took him to an emergency room to have the wounds cleaned.

"Police and EMS felt like it wasn't a serious bite," Town Manager Larry Bergman told the Associated Press.

He said town policy prohibits surfing and swimming within 300 feet of a fishing pier. There are no official lifeguards in the town, so instead police officers and water-rescue-trained firefighters patrol the beach in four-wheelers.

Bergman told AP that people swim “kind of at their own risk.”

He added the town has no plan on warning visitors about the shark attacks or telling swimmers to get out of the water. He did say the town will increase police beach patrols, with this being the fourth attack in two weeks.

On June 11, a 13-year old girl suffered small cuts on her foot from a shark bite at Ocean Isle Beach. Three days later, two separate shark attacks occurred 90 minutes apart at Oak Island. Both victims, ages 12 and 16, had an arm amputated after the attacks. One victim was swimming about 100 yards from a fishing pier when she was attacked.

READ MORE: 2 teenagers lose limbs in North Carolina shark attacks

Shark expert Larry Cahoon told People magazine that 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," Cahoon, a professor of biology and marine biology at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, said. "The fact is that sharks have millions of contact hours with humans on beaches every year, yet attacks are really rare. Just be smart."

"Sharks are frightened of us," he adds. "They normally will only attack us if they mistake us for their typical prey, like skate and rays."

Cahoon said when it comes to fending off a shark, punching it in the nose, gills or eyes won’t do much good as a 10-foot bull shark will weigh close to 500 pounds, and it is all muscle.

"What chance would anyone have?" Cahoon told People. "You won't be thinking rationally even if you have the opportunity to punch it, so just focus on getting back to land."

According to the International Shark Attack File, the US had the highest number of shark attacks in the world in 2014, with 45 recorded attacks. Of those attacks, 39 out of 45 occurred along Atlantic coast beaches.