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Mysterious Penghu caterpillar rash spreads to southern Taiwan

Residents in Hengchun also report rashes, caterpillar sightings following spread of rash in Penghu

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Following a rash outbreak in Penghy, residents in Hengchun also report rashes and caterpillar sightings. (Facebook, Roger CC Hsu photo)

Following a rash outbreak in Penghy, residents in Hengchun also report rashes and caterpillar sightings. (Facebook, Roger CC Hsu photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Residents in Hengchun, Pingtung County have flooded local clinics and hospitals in the past week after suffering rashes similar to those that gripped Penghu County, Liberty Times reported on Thursday (Oct. 7).

In addition to getting rashes, local residents also reported seeing large numbers of caterpillars. Liberty Times cited doctors as saying the rashes could be caused by Hengchun’s famous seasonal strong winds caused by monsoons, which may have spread caterpillar hair in the air and come into contact with people’s skin.

Sun Wu (孫武), a physician working in Hengchun Tourism Hospital’s infectiology department, confirmed with Liberty Times the hospital has seen a rise of patients with rashes lately. Most rashes appear on body parts that are not covered by clothing, such as the forearm, and most patients are unaware of the cause.

Mysterious Penghu caterpillar rash spreads to southern Taiwan
Rashes often occur at exposed body parts. (Facebook, Roger CC Hsu photo)

Last week, hundreds of residents in Taiwan’s outlying Penghu Island were treated for a mysterious rash. While authorities concluded that the cause of the outbreak was contact with caterpillars, they did not rule out other possible causes.

A Facebook user by the name of Roger CC Hsu, who claimed to have helped out at the Heng Chun Christian Hospital, posted multiple photos of rashes and said that there may be a rise in cases over the extended National Day weekend, during which time tourists may flood into Hengchun.

The Tri-Service General Hospital Penghu Branch posted on Facebook on Sept. 30 to ease public anxieties, saying the skin condition is nothing serious, and those who are unable to visit a dermatologist may treat the rash and itchiness by cooling down, rubbing mint oil or cooling lotions. The post also encouraged local residents to wear thin, long-sleeved shirts, neck coverings, and pants, or apply mosquito repellent.

Mysterious Penghu caterpillar rash spreads to southern Taiwan
Larva of Porthesia taiwana, a kind of moth. (CNA photo)