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Shark attacks, sightings in New York and Florida put swimmers on high alert

A recent surge in shark encounters has raised concerns among beachgoers. 

In New York this week, five shark bites were reported in just two days off Long Island beaches, while in Florida, the tranquility of a Pensacola beach turned into a rush to safety Tuesday as swimmers saw a shark's dorsal fin zipping through shallow waters.

At least 19 shark attacks have been reported in the United States this year.   

Drone patrols have intensified over Long Island state beaches, which also saw several shark bites last year — eight in total.

"You never know what's floating in the water that you can't see," said Long Island resident Deborah Rodriguez.

Despite the apparent uptick in encounters over the past few days, shark attacks on humans are highly unlikely, said Gavin Naylor, director for Shark Research at the University of Florida.

A person is about 200 times more likely to drown than be bitten by a shark, according to Naylor. It is also more likely that someone would win the lottery, die in a car crash or get hit by lightning.

"If sharks were targeting humans, we'd have at least a hundred bites every day," Naylor said.  

Sharks primarily bite humans by mistake and typically mind their own business. 

Despite the low risk, Naylor said beachgoers can take precautions to minimize the chances of a shark encounter. He advises against swimming alone, venturing too far offshore, swimming in areas with schooling fish, wearing jewelry and swimming near fishing activities. 

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