Toxic Caterpillars Invade London

Health warnings have been issued in London following an outbreak of toxic caterpillars. Hairs on the Oak processionary moth caterpillars, or OPM caterpillars, can cause fevers as well as eye and throat irritation. They can be deadly for those with asthma. According to the Telegraph:

Serious allergic reactions can be caused by protein in the creatures’ hair follicles, which remain active on the ground for up to five years after being shed…Each OPM caterpillar has about 62,000 hairs which can be ejected…The hairs also remain in the oak tree nests, which start out white but become gradually discoloured and harder to see.

The species is believed to have to have arrived in Britain accidentally in 2005 via Dutch trees imported for a landscaping project at a housing development in Kew, South West London.

Health officials warn that people should not “touch or approach nests or caterpillars” or let children or animals near them.

Bathroom Hand Dryers Spew Bacteria Everywhere

In a report that shocks only scientists, (we all knew these things were probably spraying fecal matter everywhere, right?) a study published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology found that hot hair hand dryers actively spread bacteria all over your hands. The study also showed thatspores could be dispersed throughout buildings.

The Washington Post notes that the authors of the study, “who found that the nozzle of the dryers had minimal bacterial levels, said that more evidence was needed to determine if the dryers were bacteria harbors themselves or just blew large amounts of contaminated air.”

The study recommends using HEPA filter dryers instead, which can reduce bacteria exposure by four times, which I guess is better than nothing. It’s worth noting that many people don’t properly wash their hands, and some people even seem to think rinsing them with water does something besides get them wet. Imagine all that leftover bacteria blowing in the hot wind of the hair dryer. Cool, right?

Synthetic Marijuana Effects Mimic Ebola Symptoms

Synthetic marijuana, also known as Spice, K2, or more generally a very bad idea, has been tied to two deaths and 56 cases of severe bleeding across Chicago and greater Illinois. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH):

All cases have required hospitalization for symptoms such as coughing up blood, blood in the urine, severe bloody nose, and/or bleeding gums.  Nine of these cases have tested positive for brodifacoum, a lethal anticoagulant often used as a rodenticide, or rat poison.

Officials warn it’s likely there will be more cases, and potentially more deaths. Synthetic cannabinoids, the “fake weed” product, are made from “mind-altering chemicals that are sprayed on to dried plant material.” They are commonly sold as liquids to be used in e-cigarettes or as herbs to be smoked, semi-similar in appearance to marijuana. According to Men’s Health:

Part of what makes synthetic cannabis so dangerous is that there’s often no way to tell what chemicals are in the drug. According to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, there are now more than 150 different types of synthetic marijuana compounds now on the market, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a statement saying there are “no standards for making, packaging, or selling synthetic cannabinoid chemicals. That means that two packets of a brand-named product may have completely different chemicals… and may also be contaminated with other drugs or toxic chemicals.



Waiter, There’s Still Salmonella in My Kratom

An outbreak of salmonella linked to the herbal supplement kratom continues to grow. Kratom is used in low doses as a stimulant and in high doses as a pain reliever. Because kratom gives users a “legal high” it has skyrocketed in popularity, though its effects are not entirely understood. Additionally, the FDA, which would like to classify kratom as an opiate, has linked 44 reported deaths to the use of kratom.

According to the most recent update by the CDC, 35 states are now reporting outbreaks linked to kratom, with a total case count of 87. This is over double the number of cases reported earlier in March. Additionally, 35 percent of those infected have been hospitalized. No common brands or suppliers have been identified and because of this, the CDC recommends against consuming any kratom. This hasn’t stopped stores from advertising the product though, as evidenced by this brightly lit sign down the street from me:

I’m not going to tell you how to spend your money, but certainly there’s a better use for $40 than risking diarrhea for days and potential hospitalization.

Reminder: Guinea Pigs are Rodents

Rodents carry disease. I’m not going to go down the Internet rabbit hole and debate whether the guinea pig is a rodent or not, but I will let this quote from the CDC do it for me:

This outbreak is a reminder that pet rodents such as guinea pigs, regardless of where they are purchased or adopted, can carry Salmonella bacteria even when they look healthy and clean…Pet rodents are not recommended as pets for children younger than 5 years, and should not be kept in childcare centers.

Yes, the adorable pet guinea pig/rodent you are keeping as a pet could be carrying the Salmonella bacteria. Nine people in ten states have reported Salmonella cases linked to pet guinea pigs, prompting an advisory from the CDC. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, and stomach pain. The illness usually lasts four to seven days and most people will recover without treatment. In some cases, hospitalization may be required. Salmonella can be more severe for children under than five, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems.

The CDC’s advice for pet rodent owners: wash your hands, don’t eat or drink while playing with your pet rodent, and be aware that any surfaces your pet rodent scurries across could be contaminated. Most importantly (in my opinion): “do not kiss, nuzzle, or hold pet rodents close to your face.”