The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) informed today that Key deer in a Big Pine Key, Florida wildlife refuge are tainted with New World screwworms. The National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa reported that it’s a local infestation, and it’s the first reported local infestation in the US in more than 30 years.
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, Adam H. Putnam, declared an agricultural state of emergency today in Monroe County, Florida.
— Adam Putnam (@adamputnam) October 3, 2016
He commented that “It’s been more than five decades since the screwworm last infested Florida, and I’ve grown up hearing the horror stories from the last occurrence. This foreign animal disease poses a grave threat to wildlife, livestock and domestic pets in Florida. Though rare, it can even infect humans. We’ve eradicated this from Florida before, and we’ll do it again.”
Samples were taken from three Key deer and confirmed positive for screwworm, and there are other Key deer and pets that have shown signs of being infected with screwworms for the past two months, though no larvae were tested in the samples. So far, there have been no human or livestock cases of being infected, only animals from the Big Pine Key and No Name Key area.
Response efforts include fly trapping to determine the extent of the infestation, the release of sterile flies to eliminate the screwworm fly population and disease surveillance to look for additional cases in animals. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has also established an Animal Health Check Zone from mile marker 91 south.
Residents who have warm-blooded animals are asked to watch said animals carefully and report any concerns to 1-800-HELP-FLA.