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Caterpillars are taking on Maine — however they don’t seem to be the sort you need to befriend. As an alternative, these critters will depart you with painful rashes wherever they contact.
The state is experiencing an outbreak of the browntail moth caterpillar, an invasive species discovered on the coast of Maine and Cape Cod. They’re simple to establish: They’re about 1.5 inches lengthy and darkish brown, with white stripes alongside their sides and two orange dots on their again.
Sadly, they’re additionally arduous to flee, being present in colleges, parks, playgrounds, properties — and just about in all places else.
The hairs of the bug are toxic and may trigger a blistery rash, just like poison ivy, upon contact with pores and skin — which might happen from airborne hairs, not solely from direct contact with the bug itself. These hairs can stay within the atmosphere lengthy after they have been shed from the insect’s physique.
If they’re breathed in, the tiny hairs may trigger severe respiratory misery — a heightened concern throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Youngsters and adults have been warned to keep away from contact with them.
The Maine Heart for Illness Management and Prevention has declared the creepy crawlies a public well being nuisance. There have been studies of extra caterpillars than standard within the state since their energetic season started in April, and so they have expanded to all 16 counties because the season reaches its peak.
Well being officers say that almost all of people affected by the hairs develop a localized rash, which might final from a number of hours as much as a number of days. For some who’re extra delicate, the rash might be extreme, lasting for a number of weeks.
The rash is a consequence not solely of the barbed hairs embedding into the pores and skin, but additionally from a chemical response to the toxic toxin within the hairs.
Based on the Bangor Every day Information, neighborhood Fb teams have been dominated by discussions on the assorted methods to deal with the rash in current weeks.
“We now have had folks coming in searching for cures,” Christine Cattan, a pharmacist at Bangor Drug Firm, informed the newspaper. “It may be arduous to diagnose simply by trying as a result of [the rash] form of seems to be like prickly warmth nevertheless it does have a attribute mottled trying impact.”
Fortunately, there are some simple methods to deal with the rash, together with ice packs, ibuprofen and topical lotions.
“Any type of antihistamine will assist,” Cattan mentioned. “I additionally suggest folks use a pleasant hydrocortisone cream with aloe to assuage the irritation.”
The chance of publicity to the hairs decreases after June however continues all through the summer time.
Based on the Maine Division of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, the caterpillars started pupating earlier this 12 months than they sometimes do, seemingly as a consequence of a hotter spring. The silk cocoons surrounding these pupae include the ultimate pores and skin of the caterpillars, which means they’re filled with poisonous hairs.
“Usually talking, this 12 months might be as dangerous or worse than final 12 months when it comes to potential encounters with browntail moth,” officers on the division mentioned. “Browntail moth populations in Maine have been in an outbreak part since 2015, and populations final 12 months continued to extend.”
A number of cities at the moment are elevating consciousness on prevention strategies, together with altering garments after out of doors actions, sporting a masks, goggles and coveralls when doing actions like yard work and drying laundry inside.
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