Oneida Co. health officials warn public to be on lookout for Giant Hogweed
ONEIDA COUNTY, N.Y. —
Giant Hogweed is a public health hazard that the Oneida County Health Department says your family should be on the lookout for. The plant ranks higher than poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac in respect to how it harms humans.
“The hogweed is troubling because not only is it an invasive plant, but it’s a health hazard too,” says Phyllis D. Ellis, Director of Health for Oneida County. The plant is a giant tropical looking leaf that has tall stems with multiple, umbrella-shaped flowering heads. It also has a distinct dark red or purple spots on the green stems. The white flowering heads produce thousands of seeds that can stick around for up to five years.
The sap from the plant can cause a severe skin reaction known as photo-sensitivity, according to the health department. The reaction can happen up to 48 hours after exposure. Once the sap has been in contact with the body, skin will blister when exposed to sunlight and possible blindness if it is gotten in eyes.
The Oneida County Health Department advises that washing with soap and water immediately after contact with the plant will help reduce the chances of blisters appearing. Also, it is recommended to thoroughly flush sap that has gotten in contact with eyes, to reduce the chance of blindness.
If you find Giant Hogweed in your yard, do not panic. The state Department of Conservation says to carefully remove flower heads from the stems and to place them in a black plastic bag to dry up for one week before disposing of them.