Spread of toxic caterpillars is a health risk

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Increased spread of poisonous caterpillars

Imminent health problems from caterpillars. The allergy-causing caterpillars were removed from twelve trees in the Winterhude district of Hamburg, the authorities report.

The fine hairs, the oak processionary moth removed from the trees in Hamburg, are not only a danger for the infected trees, the leaves of which caterpillars eat up almost completely, but can lead to violent allergic reactions, especially in allergy sufferers through skin contact or inhalation. The massive spread of caterpillars is therefore viewed with concern by the authorities and, if necessary, the caterpillars (webs) are removed.

The caterpillars' stinging hair triggers allergic reactions. Allergy sufferers should be particularly careful with the oak processionary moths, because there are severe allergic reactions, respiratory complaints and itching for weeks, including anaphylactic shocks, the authorities warn. The tiny so-called stinging hairs of the caterpillars settle on barbed skin contact and secrete a protein poison that can cause severe allergies in humans. Rashes, itching and an uncomfortable burning sensation on the skin are possible consequences of contact with the hair of the oak procession moths. The hairs of the caterpillars can cover long distances through the air in wind, so that there is an increased risk of inhalation near the caterpillar nests. In the worst case, the stinging hair can penetrate deep into the lungs and thus trigger bronchitis, painful cough or asthma. Twelve nests of the caterpillars were therefore removed from the trees in the Winterhude district of Hamburg. No other parts of the city have been affected so far, the official statement.

Long-term health risks The occurrence of oak procession moths has increased significantly in recent years, not least because of the warmer climates. Today the caterpillars are relatively widespread in Berlin, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and Saxony-Anhalt. In the federal states of Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden-Württemberg, Lower Saxony, Hamburg and Bavaria, nests of oak procession moths have already been spotted in recent years, but so far only in relatively small numbers. In order to rule out health risks for the population, the caterpillar nests in the urban area are usually removed immediately. The butterflies hatch from the preserved nests in the period between July and September, so that the health risks from the live caterpillars are then over. But in the caterpillar nests, the so-called webs, the larval skins with the stinging hair remain after the pupation, because according to the experts, the hairs have an extremely long shelf life. The old webs can pose a permanent health hazard. In addition, the nettles accumulate in the area over the years, which threatens long-term significant health problems for allergy sufferers, warn health authorities. (fp)

Also read:
Oak procession spinner a health hazard
Ambrosia leads to many cross allergies
Pollen allergy & hay fever
Cats and dogs reduce allergy risk

Photo credit: Siegfried Bellach / pixelio.de

Author and source information

Video: Toxic caterpillar infestation plagues London suburb


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