Flesh-eating screwworm infestation could spread north

(Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services)

AUGUSTA, GA (WJBF) – As an infestation of the new world screwworm spreads in the Florida Keys, agriculture officials are trying to keep the parasites out of Georgia.

It can eat animals alive if they become infested.

The Florida Department of Agriculture said new restrictions are being placed on livestock and pets being moved from Florida to Georgia.

The release says animals should be carefully examined for signs of screwworm and treated appropriately. Animals are not permitted to enter Georgia except by special permit issued by the state veterinarian.

The species was first spotted on Big Pine Key, Florida, on Oct. 3 and has since been found on six other Florida keys. This is the first local infestation in the U.S. in more than 30 years.

Florida officials are using a variety of techniques, including the release of sterile flies, to combat the infestation.

The screwworms are fly larvae, or maggots They target livestock and other animals. They can also infest a newborn animal through the navel. In rare cases they can infest people.

The screwworms enter the body through an open wound and “feed on the animal’s living flesh,” the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said, sometimes killing their victim.

The screwworm was largely wiped out in the United States by the 1960s, but is still present in South America and the Caribbean.

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