Stray dog found with screwworms in Homestead

HOMESTEAD, FLA. (WSVN) - Florida agricultural officials addressed the public, Thursday, after a dog was found in Homestead with screwworms.

According to the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam, the stray dog was found with screwworms in Homestead in December. The dog was found with open wounds.

“The New World screwworm is a significant threat not only to Florida’s agricultural livestock economy but to our precious wildlife resources and potentially to pets,” said Putnam.

This is the first time in 50 years that this fly larva has made its way to mainland Florida. Previously, the screwworm was only found in the Florida Keys. “Flies in general come in by the thousands, and you have a whole bunch of livestock here in Florida. A lot meat markets can be affected as well as the economy itself,” said Quinton Glenn, manager of Everglades Outpost Inc.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture set up a temporary headquarters in nearby Florida City to fight screwworms in the area. Officials added that they discovered a male fly in the Homestead area.

In order to eradicate the dangerous flies, a sterile group of 300,000 flies were released within a 10 mile radius. The method, which costs nearly a half million dollars per month, has been proven to break the life cycle of the screwworm.

Another release is planned for Friday.

Surveillance is also being used to check vehicles traveling north from the Keys to the mainlands. “Now we have opened up a second front in this war where we are actively engaged in surveillance and sterile fly release here in the Homestead area,” Putnam said.

Over 100 Key deer have been killed due to screwworms near Big Pine Key since late September.

The swift deaths gained the attention of local, state and federal officials who then began to fight the spread aggressively.

This brings on a new fear for pet owners in the area considering that the New World screwworm flies lay their eggs in the wounds of warm blooded animals before feeding on their flesh. The larvae can kill the host animal in a matter of days.

As Putnam mentioned during a press conference, the invasive screwworm can impact South Florida wildlife, including the Florida panther, which lives in the Everglades.

Officials are warning pet owners to be on the lookout for any suspicious wounds to prevent the fatal infestation.

For more information on screwworms and the eradication process, follow this link:

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