Wednesday 10 July 2019

Toxic caterpillars spark health scare across Germany

People suffer rashes and breathing difficulties as warm weather brings infestation
Fri 5 Jul 2019 16.51 BSTLast modified on Fri 5 Jul 2019 18.05 BST

Marauding caterpillars with toxic hairs have brought parts of Germany to a standstill, leading to closures of swimming pools, restaurants, public parks and sections of the motorway.
Oak processionary moth caterpillars, named after the nose-to-tail processions they form to travel between the oak trees they devour, have fine, long hairs with an irritating toxin that can cause blistering rashes, feverish dizzy spells and asthma attacks.
For years, the caterpillar used to be a relatively rare sight in Germany, found only in isolated areas of woodland. But following a this year’s mild spring and warm, dry summer, the oak processionary’s nests have been found in large numbers all over the country.
Cities and towns in Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia have been particularly badly affected.
In the city of Münster, six people had to have eye operations to remove caterpillar hair that got stuck in their corneas. In Mülheim, nine children were taken to a hospital last month after suffering rashes and breathing problems during a sports day.
“It’s terrible everywhere,” Thomas Schwolow, an administrator in the municipality of Issum, where numerous trees have been affected, told Rheinische Post. “It would be great if it would rain so that at least all the hair on the leaves and in the air could be washed away,” he added.

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