Skin irritating moth invades Essequibo

Stabroek News
December 25, 2002

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The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Crops are advising persons in the Essequibo region to be on the lookout for a moth that causes severe skin irritation and even fever.

According to a release from the Regional Health Services of the Health Ministry, there have been reports of an outbreak of skin irritation (itching) on the Essequibo Islands of Leguan and Hog Island and on the adjacent coastal areas such as Parika, Hydronie and Tuschen.

The insect apparently invaded those areas over the past month and feasts on crops such as citrus, coconuts, bananas and plantains, ornamental and wild vegetation.

Both ministries are urging persons to avoid contact with the pest by wearing garments that cover the arms and legs effectively, and by restricting the use of bright lights at night.

“The Ministry of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock has advised that householders exterminate the pest by the use of such pesticides as Dipel, Agreo, Karate, Fastac, Servin or Matation. The cocoons appear as brown oval shaped castings on trunks and stems and branches of these as well as on the underside of leaves.

Persons should not attempt to cut any part of trees, which show these characteristics,” the release said.

And most importantly, persons who are experiencing skin irritations should seek medical attention at the Leguan Hospital and at other health facilities in the areas affected.

The skin irritations are easily treated with antihistamines, but the irritation may recur if the victim comes into contact with the pest again.

The ministry said the condition is characterised by severe and persistent irritation of the skin, which in some victims is sometimes accompanied by fever.

The pest, the release said, has various stages of development in its lifecycle, which lasts for about a month. All stages - caterpillars (worms), cocoons and moths (adults) - can cause skin irritation in humans. According to the ministry, the cocoons are covered with tiny hairs while the adults’ wings are covered with scales.

The caterpillars are covered with longer hairs. The hairs and scales both cause the severe itching.

The authorities are warning that a person may become sick by coming into contact with any stage of the lifecycle, since the scales from the wings of the adult are easily shed and can be blown in the wind until it settles on the skin of a person.

“The insect is very active in the evening and in the early hours of the morning.

The moths are very attracted to lights - such as house lights or street lamps.” Both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock are closely monitoring the situation.

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