Caterpillar causes asthma

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Toxic caterpillars, which can trigger an asthma attack or anaphylaxis, have infested People’s Park in St Helier on the Channel Island of Jersey.

The oak processionary caterpillar causes respiratory problems via its 60,000 barbed setae (hairs), which contain a harmful toxin. People visiting the park have been taken to hospital with skin rashes as a result of contact with the setae.

The infested trees have been cut down to prevent further risk to the public. Before being cut down, the trees were coated with biodegradable vegetable oil to prevent the toxic hairs being blown into the air. Furthermore the grass surrounding the trees were also coated with vegetable oil and burnt.

Oak processionary caterpillars can be found inhabiting oak trees across Europe, feeding on leaves and making nests on the trunk or branches of oak trees.

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