Infections and vermin
Oak processionary caterpillar
The municipalities through which the Four Days Marches will pass have controlled the oak processionary caterpillar intensively during the recent warm months. Despite this, it is possible that if people come into contact with the virtually invisible poisonous hairs of these caterpillars, they will experience itching, rashes or irritation to the eyes and airways. In particular during dry and windy conditions, walkers should be cautious and protect their skin from the poisonous hairs.
When in close contact, the barbs on the arrow-like hairs can easily penetrate the skin, eyes and airways. This will result in the release of substances in the body that cause a form of ‘allergic' reaction. The reactions can differ considerably from one person to the other. The rashes, which appear within eight hours, are red and painful and are accompanied by intense itching. If the poisonous hairs get into the eyes, within a few hours, it can result in red, weeping, painful, itchy and swollen eyes. Breathing in the poisonous hairs can cause irritation and inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose, throat and airways.
Avoid all contact with the caterpillars and any of their remnants, such as empty nests. Ensure that your neck, arms and legs are well covered and do not sit on the ground. After accidental contact with the caterpillars or poisonous hairs, do not scratch or rub but instead wash your skin thoroughly and rinse your eyes with water. If necessary, wash your clothes as well. In general, the symptoms will disappear within two weeks. A soft cream containing camphor or menthol may provide some relief.
If you have severe symptoms, you can report to one of the posts of the Dutch Red Cross at the major resting places along the route or in the large medical services tent of the Dutch Red Cross on the Wedren.
The risk is small, but it is possible for walkers to be bitten by a tick during their walk. Ticks are small spider-like insects. They feed on the blood of humans or animals to which it becomes attached. Ticks lie in wait primarily in bushes, woods and long grass. The bite does not hurt and is therefore not always noticed. Sometimes ticks are hidden in badly visible places or you might be dealing with a young tick often no bigger than 1 mm and therefore barely visible. It is therefore important to wear clothes that fully cover your body, to wear a hat and to thoroughly examine yourself when you get home. A tick bite can transmit a number of unpleasant diseases, such as Lyme disease which, when left untreated, may cause long term symptoms of chronic tiredness, the sudden onset of very painful joints as well as nerve and heart complaints.
Bitten by a tick? Use tick removal tweezers to remove the tick immediately. When the tick gets removed within 20 hours chances of infection are slim, but nevertheless present. Never anaesthetise the tick before removal. If necessary, you can let the tick be removed at a Red Cross Post for assistance. Remember or write down the time and place of the bite. You must immediately contact your family doctor if you notice a red circle near the bite or if you experience vague physical symptoms in the weeks after a bite. When a red circle appears without you even remembering having been bitten by a tick, you should go to your general practitioner immediately; in this case, you should be treated with antibiotics straight away. For more information on ticks and the first symptoms of the possible diseases we refer you to the website of the Lymevereniging.
The GGD Regio Nijmegen inspects temporary facilities for Four Days Marches walkers. This will include sleeping, eating and sanitary facilities. The reason for this is that groups of walkers will stay overnight in temporary accommodation such as sports and community centres. These are often locations that are not designed to serve as accommodation. To prevent infectious diseases, the people that will set up these locations for use as accommodation will be informed in writing about the required guidelines for hygiene and safety. Volunteers that provide meals for groups of walkers at the temporary locations will also receive advice in respect of working in the often temporary kitchens.
The GGD is available during office hours to answer questions and provide advice related to infectious diseases. If two or more people become ill in the group in which you are staying, either at the same time or in short succession, and have the same symptoms, you can report this by telephone to the infectious diseases department at 024-329 71 26, which is available from 8:30 to 12:30 and 13:00 to 07:00. Information: GGD Regio Nijmegen, tel. 024-3297297 or www.ggd-nijmegen.nl and the RIVM.