The 18-year-old was taken to hospital in Virginia in a critical condition on Saturday afternoon after being bitten on his right calf, buttocks and both hands. The young man was swimming with others when the attack took place, but no one else was injured. His condition was later upgraded to ‘serious’.

It was the second shark attack on the Outer Banks in as many days, and the sixth attack off the coast of North Carolina in the past fortnight. No one has died, but in the deadliest attacks a 13-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy both lost their left arms following separate attacks just 90 minutes apart at Oak Island.

Shark expert Rob Hueter told Fox & Friends Sunday that he believed multiple sharks were responsible for the attacks – possibly larger bull sharks of around six or seven feet long. He dismissed any notion of a giant Jaws-style predator patrolling the coastline.

“The sharks are just trying to find food,” said Hunter, director of the Center for Shark Research at the Mote Marine Lab in Sarasota, Florida. “They’re not hunting for people and in that environment it’s hard for the sharks to tell the people from their prey.

“It’s summertime and there’s a lot of people in the water. North Carolina is a fairly sharky place and I think it’s happening there because the beaches are full of surf. It’s a high-energy beach. You’ve got sharks in close to shore because they are feeding.

“We’re not talking about great white sharks here. That’s important for people not to get in their head, that we’re talking about 25-foot animals that are coming in and going after people.”