TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A parasite that poses a risk to pets has been found in additional areas of the Florida Keys, the state’s agriculture department said.
The New World screwworm, or Cochliomyia hominivorax, are fly larvae can feed on the living flesh of warm-blooded animals and, in rare cases, humans. They most often enter through an open wound.
Screwworm maggots have been detected in Big Torch Key, Middle Torch Key, Little Torch Key, Cudjoe, Ramrod and Summerland. The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmation of screwworms on Big Pine Key last month represented the first time they’d been found in the U.S. in more than 30 years.
That discovery prompted Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam to declare an agricultural state of emergency for Monroe County. Screwworms once cost the U.S. livestock industry millions every year.
State agriculture department officials have begun efforts to contain and eradicate the maggots, including an animal health checkpoint at mile marker 106 on U.S. 1 in Key Largo. The department is advising residents worried about whether their pets may become infected to seek veterinary care for open wounds on any of their animals.
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