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The number of shark attacks in the U.S. in 2015 is slightly above average for this time of year—there have already been 23, with one fatality in Hawaii; normally, there are 30 to 40 in a whole year, with no or one fatality.

July 02, 2015

In the third shark attack in just one week, a 68-year-old man swimming off the Outer Banks of North Carolina was bit in waist-deep water Wednesday.

The unnamed man had bites on his left lower torso, his hip, his lower left leg, and on both hands, according to NBC News, and was treated on the scene before being airlifted to the mainland town of Greenville.

This follows two shark attacks from last weekend, bringing the total in North Carolina this season to seven. According to USA Today, the number of shark attacks in the U.S. in 2015 is slightly above average for this time of year—there have already been 23, with one fatality in Hawaii; normally, there are 30 to 40 in a whole year, with no or one fatality. They’re also occurring further north than usual, with most typically occurring in Florida, rather than North Carolina.

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“If it had been in Florida, I wouldn’t have batted an eye,” George Burgess, head of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH), told The Washington Post.

Why the uptick in N.C.? It could be due to a higher number of sea turtle eggs being laid there this season, Burgess said, which can attract sharks seeking food. Warmer water temperatures—which bring with them fish and the hungry sharks that feed on them—could also be to blame, he noted. So could fishermen on piers who attract sharks with their bait; there are at least 19 piers jutting out into the sea in North Carolina.

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Still, it’s important to remember that your chance of death from a Jaws-style shark attack is extremely low—approximately 1 in 3.7 million, which is much, much smaller than your chance of getting struck by lightning (a somewhat scary 1 in 500,000 possibility).

To keep yourself safe in the water, your smartest strategy is to swim in an area with a lifeguard, who'll have a way better vantage point from which to spot a shark than you do in the surf. (And no, you don't have to stay on dry land if you're having your period—there’s no evidence that menstruating makes you more prone to shark attacks—though if you're bleeding profusely for some other reason, keeping out of the waves is a good idea.)

Finally, don't swim near piers, especially those manned by fishermen and their shark-attracting lures. As Burgess told USA Today about the coming Fourth of July holiday: "I can almost guarantee there'll be a bite or two this weekend."

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