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Warning that 'hazardous' caterpillars could be making their way to Slough

Hannah Crouch

People in Slough are being asked to look out for caterpillars which pose a health hazard.

The oak processionary moth (OPM), which, according to the Forestry Commission ‘are a hazard to tree, human and animal health’, live and feed off oak trees.

They carry toxins called thaumetopoein in their hair, which can cause itching, skin rashes and, less commonly, sore throats, breathing difficulties and eye problems.

Dr Deborah Turbitt, London deputy director for Health Protection for Public Health England, said: “We strongly advise people not to touch or approach the caterpillars or their nests because of the health risks posed by the hairs.”

OPM was accidently introduced to the UK and the greatest risk period is between May and July when the caterpillars are active.

There have been sightings of the caterpillar in Spelthorne, Ealing and Hounslow.

An SBC spokesman said: “From what we gather so far, these particular caterpillars haven’t made it as far as Slough just yet, although they’ve appeared in neighbouring areas so it’s entirely possible they will pop up in our borough this spring, hence why we’re trying to warn people now.

"We have a tree officer who sits within our environmental services team.

“He and the team will be keeping a close eye out for the moths over the coming weeks and reporting back to the Forestry Commission.

“We ask residents to follow the Forestry Commission’s advice to keep away from the caterpillars and their nests and to report sightings. “

Those who think they have had possible OPM contact should consult a GP or NHS111.

Click here to report a sighting to the commission or to find out more information.

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