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Browntail Moth Precautions
The browntail moth caterpillar has tiny (0.15 mm) poisonous hairs (setae) that cause dermatitis (skin rash) similar to poison ivy on sensitive individuals. People may develop dermatitis from direct contact with the caterpillar or indirectly from contact with airborne hairs. The hairs become airborne from either being dislodged from the living or dead caterpillar or they come from cast skins when the caterpillar molts. Most people affected by the hairs develop a localized rash that will last for a few hours up to several days but on some sensitive individuals the rash can be severe and last for several weeks. The rash results from both a chemical reaction to a toxin in the setae and a physical irritation as the barbed setae become embedded in the skin. Respiratory distress from inhaling the hairs has been reported (11% of the population in one health survey) and can be serious.
The following precautions may help people living or visiting browntail moth infested areas during June through August:
MAINE DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION
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