We shared in October when the New World screwworm was found in the Florida Keys in Key deer. The New World screwworm was once a significant pest in The Sunshine State. It was so detrimental to the livestock of Florida cattlemen that a massive eradication effort was undertaken in the 1950s. It was successful, and New World screwworm flies and its lethal larvae have not been seen in Florida with regularity. While eradication efforts promptly got underway in this latest detection, the latest screwworm update is that the pest has been detected on the mainland.
The New World screwworm is a member of the blowfly family. The female lays its eggs in open wounds, and the hatching larvae feed on the animal’s tissue. It causes damage, leaves the wound vulnerable to infection and attracts more egg-laying flies.
There have been 15 confirmed cases of screwworm infestation of deer and other animals on various Florida key islands since the first confirmation on 9/30 of 2016. The latest screwworm update is that a stray dog was found to be infected with New World screwworm larvae in Homestead, Florida on 1/6 of 2017. The dog is reported to have been treated and in good health.
While reports from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) maintain that, “it is not uncommon for there to be additional detections while the eradication program is underway,” it is certainly not a desirable turn of events for the pest to be detected on mainland Florida. Anyone with livestock or pets should check their animals often.
Signs of Screwworm Infestation
Screwworm flies are attracted to open wounds, even small ones. According to FDACS, such wounds include “those caused by feeding ticks, castration, dehorning, branding, shearing, barbed wire fences, and even shedding of antler velvet in deer. The navels of newborn mammals can also become infested.”
Wounds infected by screwworm larvae will get larger and deepen over time. FDACS maintains, “infested wound also gives off an odor and some bloody discharge.” Infested wounds can be much more severe than they appear, with deep pockets of screwworm larvae beneath the wound.
Animals themselves will show signs of discomfort, according to FDACS, and they will exhibit other signs, such as going off feed or giving less milk. They may also “separate themselves from the rest of the flock or herd and seek shady or secluded areas to lie down,” according to FDACS. Infested animals can die in as little as seven to 14 days if not treated.
If you suspect a New World screwworm infestation on an animal, have a veterinarian see the animal as soon as possible. Also, report any suspected cases of screwworm immediately to 1-800-HELP-FLA (1-800-435-7352).
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