A South Florida community is on high alert as screwworms are popping up in homestead and targeting animals.
Defending South Florida from an infestation means fighting a battle the Sunshine State hasn't seen in decades.
Thursday, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is examining surveillance efforts in after a stray dog suffered an infection there earlier this month.
“New world screwworm is a significant threat, not only to Florida’s agriculture and livestock economy, but to our precious wildlife resources,” Putnam said.
Adult screwworm flies infest wounds and their larvae literally eat away at the host animal, leaving a deadly, gory mess. Humans can become infected, but that is rare. Eradication efforts include checkpoints, and pet examinations, plus the release of sterile flies to reduce screwworm breeding.
“Female screwworms breed just once in their lives,” said USDA Veterinarian Sherry Shaw. “If that breeding is with a sterile male, we’re done.”
Those efforts began last October when investigators confirmed a screwworm outbreak in endangered key deer.