They're the stuff of news headlines, blockbuster movies and nightmares: shark attacks.
The idea of a shark attack can be terrifying, but consider this: the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) at the Florida Museum of Natural History says the "annual risk of death during one's lifetime" from a shark attack is one in 3,748,067.
Fox News asked University of Miami professor and marine ecologist Dr. Neil Hammerschlag for advice on how to deal with a shark encounter, and he answered three questions on most swimmers' minds.
How can I prevent a shark from biting me?
There are a couple of things you can do.
Hammerschlag says to avoid swimming in areas with “an unusual amount of fish life,” where sharks may be searching for food.
You should also avoid being in the water at nighttime, dawn, or dusk. “It appears that sharks may mistake people or bite people unintentionally,” he told Fox News, explaining that it’s harder for them to discriminate when it’s dark out.
People should also avoid swimming alone, and stay in groups. “Sharks tend to target isolated prey,” Hammerschlag said.
I see a shark — what should I do?
Keep your distance — do not attempt to shoo, corner or touch it.
“Don’t act like shark food,” Hammerschlag recommends. He says that if you encounter a shark, do not run away. You should also keep eye contact with the shark.
“Follow it around if it circles you, let it know that it sees you,” he added. When trying to get away, “keep facing the shark, but move backwards slowly.”
What’s the best way to fight back if a shark is biting me?
Most sharks bite and release, Hammerschlag says.
“In the unlikely event they don’t release,” you should “fight back” and strike the shark’s gills, eyes and nose, he advised.
Hammerschlag also said shark bites are “really rare,” usually minor and do not require hospitalization.