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Five myths about shark attacks, debunked

Sunday's shark attacks don't mean beach-goers should avoid North Carolina's coast. "Oak Island is still a safe place," a local official told NBC News.

Two teenagers sustained serious injuries last weekend after separate shark attacks in Oak Island, North Carolina. Both victims required limb amputations as a result of the damage.

But Sunday's shark attacks don't necessarily mean beach-goers should avoid North Carolina's coast all summer long. "Oak Island is still a safe place," Oak Island Town Manager Tim Holloman told NBC News on Monday. "This is highly unusual."

So, what's the best way to avoid a shark attack? Below are five misconceptions, debunked.

1. Sharks of all sizes are dangerous. Actually, larger sharks pose a greater threat to humans than smaller ones, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History. The most dangerous sharks, the museum says, are white sharks, tiger sharks, and bull sharks, all of which "have been repetitively implicated as the primary attackers of man."

2. Shark attacks are less likely in shallow water. In fact, the further you swim from the shore, the less likely you are to be attacked by a shark. According to National Geographic, "[m]ost shark attacks occur less than 100 feet from the shore."

3. When it comes to shark attacks, all beaches are equally dangerous. Nope. Florida has the highest incidence of shark attacks. The Ichthyology department at Florida's Museum of Natural History reports that out of 574 total shark attacks in the United States that have occurred since 2001, 323 occurred in the Sunshine State.

4. If a shark attacks, try to swim away. While your flight instinct could kick in, it may actually be best to go on offense. According to, "[P]unching a shark in the nose or poking its eyes can help to fend it off during an attack. Most sharks don't want to work hard for their food."

5. Fatal shark attacks are shockingly common. Not so. National Geographic reports that just five people die from shark attacks each year. As a point of contrast, millions die from starvation annually. According to a 2011 fact sheet, "You have a 1 in 63 chance of dying from the flu and a 1 in 11 million chance of being killed by a shark during your lifetime."