Florida fights to eliminate flesh-eating screwworms

Screwworms are posing a problem for local households.

After a 30-year hiatus, flesh-eating Parasites called Screwworms have been spotted in the Florida Keys.

“It's worrisome, we need to watch out for the pet the deer and the wildlife,” says concerned resident Bekah Witten.

Attracted to animal wounds, once eggs are laid, worms hatch inside and feed on living flesh.

New World screwworm, is threatening the Key deer, a subspecies of white-tailed deer that lives solely on the islands from Little Pine Key to Sugarloaf Key and a few small surrounding islands.

“They can be deadly,” says Cathy Meeks With Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners.

Meeks says while screwworms aren't a threat in Tampa Bay, pet owners still need to be aware.

“Having your animal stay away from that area, if you're not from that area, until we get this sorted out,” says Meeks.

The task at hand is to keep the screwworm from spreading outside of the Florida Keys.

These maggots are threatening the islands from Little Pine Key to Sugarloaf Key and a few small surrounding islands.

The Florida Department of Agriculture has started aggressively battling the infestation before it spreads to other animals.

The department has established an Animal Health Check Zone at mile marker 91 south. 

Animals traveling north will be given health checks at a station located at mile marker 106 to ensure that they do not have screwworm.

This checkpoint will ensure that the screwworm does not travel north and infest other areas of Florida.

There's also a plan to release male screwworm flies that have been sterilized. They mate but release no eggs. Which is how the parasite was wiped out three decades ago.

A proposal to test mosquitoes genetically modified so their larvae won't survive is up for consideration in the Keys next month.


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