Florida using 'overwhelming force' to fight flesh-eating screwworms

Endangered Key deer are facing an infestation of screwworms in Florida.

Story highlights

  • The USDA confirmed a local infestation of New World screwworm in Key deer
  • The fly can be fatal to animals; no cases have been reported in humans or livestock

(CNN)In recent months, Florida has faced both Zika virus and hurricanes. Now, the Sunshine State must defend itself against one more natural scourge: flesh-eating worms of unknown origin.

After the US Department of Agriculture confirmed a local infestation of New World screwworm in Key deer on September 30, state Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam declared an agricultural state of emergency in Monroe County, the home of Key West.
Despite its name, the adult screwworm is actually a fly, and it typically lays its eggs in an open wound on an animal. Infected animals usually separate from their herd and, if left untreated, die in seven to 14 days from toxicity or secondary infections.
    No human or livestock cases have been reported, according to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The infestation is geographically limited to the Keys, specifically Big Pine Keys and No Name Keys.
    Along with the confirmed cases in the National Key Deer Refuge of Big Pine Keys, a few local pets and additional deer have showed signs of possible infestations over the past two months. Key deer, a subspecies of white-tailed deer, once ranged throughout the lower Keys. They are protected under the Endangered Species Act.