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Oak processionary moth caterpillar warning issued to Brent residents

PUBLISHED: 15:16 18 May 2016 | UPDATED: 15:17 18 May 2016

A caterpillars of the oak processionary moth (Pic: Crown copyright/Forestry Commission)

A caterpillars of the oak processionary moth (Pic: Crown copyright/Forestry Commission)

Archant

This fluffy caterpillar might look harmless but it can cause health problems to humans or animals it comes into contact with.

May marks the beginning of the oak processionary moth caterpillar season and residents in Brent are being warned to avoid touching any that are spotted in the borough.

Instead any sighting should be reported to the Forestry Commission, the government department that looks environment, food and rural affairs.

The caterpillars have tiny hairs which contain a protein that can cause itchy skin rashes and even eye and throat irritations and breathing difficulties in people and animals.

The hairs can be blown in the wind which is why sightings need to be reported so pest control measures can be rolled out in affected areas.

The caterpillars also damage oak trees

Alison Field from the Forest Commission, said: “We need reports of the caterpillars or their nests from the public or others, such as gardeners, tree surgeons and ground-care workers, who work or relax near oak trees.

“However, they should not try to remove the caterpillars or nests themselves. This needs to be carefully timed to be effective, and is most safely done by specially trained and equipped pest control experts.”

Dr Deborah Turbitt from Health Protection for Public Health England, has advised anyone who comes into close contact with the caterpillar to consult their GP or call NHS111.

To report any sightings visit forestry.gov.uk/opm1, email opm@forestry.gsi.gov.uk or call 0300 067 4442.

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