Screwworm larvae  burrow into the flesh of warm-blooded animals, and caused serious losses in livestock prior to eradication in the United States.
Screwworm larvae burrow into the flesh of warm-blooded animals, and caused serious losses in livestock prior to eradication in the United States.

Earlier this week, Florida officials confirmed that New World screwworms had been found on a dog near Homestead, on the mainland of Florida. The parasitic screwworm fly, previously eradicated from North America, turned up in the Florida Keys last fall, with their burrowing larvae affecting the rare Key deer and other animals. Prior to eradication, screwworms were a painful and costly parasite in cattle and other livestock in the southern United States.

On January 11, the USDA and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced they will begin releasing sterile screwworm flies on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 in the Homestead area as a precautionary measure. “Since the 1950s, the Sterile Insect Technique has been used to effectively eradicate screwworm, and it is considered safe for people, animals and the environment,” notes a release from the Florida Department of Agriculture.

For more on the sterile insect technique, read “Screwworms Reach the Mainland” on BovineVetOnline.com.

According to the news release, Florida and U.S. animal health and wildlife officials have been working aggressively to eradicate this pest. Their efforts have included fly assessments to determine the extent of the infestation, release of sterile flies to prevent reproduction and disease surveillance to look for additional cases in animals. To date, fly assessments have been conducted on 40 Keys. USDA has released over 80 million sterile flies from 25 ground release sites in the Keys.

Residents who have warm-blooded animals (pets, livestock, etc.) should watch their animals carefully and report any potential cases to 1-800-HELP-FLA (1-800-435-7352) or non-Florida residents should call (850) 410-3800.  Visitors to the area should ensure any pets that are with them are also checked, in order to prevent the spread of this infestation.