Screwworm eradicated in Florida

State and federal officials have announced that the recent screwworm infestation in south Florida has been eliminated. The successful eradication ends a potentially serious threat to farm livestock and warm-blooded pets.

A collaborative effort among several public agencies made this achievement possible. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local governments all participated.

Agency personnel began releasing sterile male flies to suppress the outbreak last year, after the pest was identified in the Florida Keys. No new screwworm finds have been reported in south Florida since January.

Jack Shere, USDA’s chief veterinarian, said, “Almost 430 hours of active surveillance in the Keys and 250 hours of active surveillance on the mainland have been completed” by the collaborating agencies. “Their tireless work has allowed us to eliminate New World screwworm from the United States once again.”

Florida Farm Bureau President John Hoblick expressed his appreciation for the agencies’ outstanding accomplishment. “I want to thank the researchers, technicians and other staff members who worked long hours every day for many weeks during this emergency,” Hoblick said.

“Their success has protected Florida’s beef cattle herd and other farm animals from a terrible onslaught of disease as well as severe losses to our farm families and our state’s economy,” he added. “I salute them for their dedication and their teamwork in eliminating what could have been a devastating outbreak.”

Screwworms are fly larvae that feed on living flesh. Infestation begins when a female fly lays eggs on a wound or an orifice of a warm-blooded animal. A large-scale program, also led by federal and state agencies, eliminated the insect from the United States more than 50 years ago. Screwworm had previously been an endemic pest in Florida and in other Southeastern states. The source of the recent outbreak may have been an imported dog.

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