Oak moth pest could pose significant health risk to humans: Study

August 3rd, 2010 - 2:34 pm ICT by ANI  

London, August 3 (ANI): The caterpillar of the oak processionary moth, which damages oak trees, could pose a danger to humans too, says a study.

The moth, found mostly in trees in west London, has around 62,000 toxic hairs, which can be blown into contact with people, causing skin rashes, itchy eyes and triggering asthma attacks.

Hairs that fall to the ground can be active for up to five years.

“The symptoms can vary and some people may experience itchy patches of puffy skin, persistent itchy raised spots, irritant dermatitis and itchy eyes,” the BBC quoted Dr Brian McCloskey, director of the Health Protection Agency in London, as saying.

Symptoms can be treated with antihistamines or skin treatments available from local pharmacies.

Doctors suggest that asthma patients should always carry an inhaler with them.

Experts at Kew have discovered that spraying the caterpillars with insecticide before they produce their poisonous hairs is the best way to tackle the problem.

Experts are concerned that the oak processionary moth could take hold in Richmond Park, which is home to 40,000 oak trees over 2,500 acres.

But a spokesperson for the Royal Parks said that all the caterpillar nests identified had been removed from the trees before the adult caterpillars could emerge. (ANI)

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