The Virginia Department of Forestry is warning residents to stay away from a caterpillar considered to be one of the most venomous caterpillars in the US because it has venomous spines across its thick, furry coat.
"There are little hollow hairs in that fluffy, hairy material," Theresa Dellinger, a diagnostician at the Insect Identification Lab at Virginia Tech "It's not going to reach out and bite you, but if someone brushes up against that hair, it'll release toxins that you'll have a reaction to."
That reaction can include an itchy rash, vomiting, swollen glands and fever, and put you in a world of pain.
The caterpillar isn't commonly found in the state and no one is entirely sure why there have been so many recent reports in Virginia.
"With changes in our climate, we're seeing some insects change their population," Dellinger told CNN. "But it's too soon to tell. Caterpillars, moths and butterflies all have cyclical periods, it's all about the right time, and the right conditions."
Scientists expect that the caterpillar's natural predators will help keep it in check, they'll intervene if its population size gets out of control.
"If someone is susceptible to bee stings, treat it like one," Dellinger said. "Go ahead and seek medical treatment, if you have had bad reactions to other insects in the past."
Victims should thoroughly rinse the area with soap and water, apply ice and take an aspirin for pain. If the pain is excruciating, head to the emergency room.
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