Florida still fighting maggots that can eat livestock, pets alive

AP file photo
AP file photo

Florida officials provided updated information Monday about screwworm deaths.

New World screwworm, or Cochliomyia hominivorax, have resulted in the deaths of 132 Key deer since resurfacing this year. No deaths have been reported since Nov. 14.

The parasite once cost the U.S. livestock industry millions every year. There hadn’t been a U.S. infestation in over 30 years, until the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed Sept. 30 that screwworm was killing rare, dog-sized deer found only in the Florida Keys.

RELATED: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SCREWWORM

The Keys’ isolation may help stop screwworm from spreading again, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said in October.

Since the parasite reemerged, officials have administered 6,283 anti-parasitic doses.

In addition, the Miami Herald reported in November, anti-parasitic feeding troughs baited with sweet corn, oats and other grains had been deployed deep inside the National Key Deer Refuge.

U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Joanna Davis says this provides another layer of protection to the endangered herd. The agency has been releasing sterile male screwworm flies to the wild population. The female flies only mate once, so the population should begin to drop within three months.

While most fly maggots target dead animals, screwworm larvae burrow into the living flesh of deer and livestock.

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