Flesh-Eating Parasite ​Infestation in Florida Threatening Pets, Wildlife

A parasite not seen in the United States for three decades is raising alarm in Florida after the U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed an infestation and a state of agricultural emergency in Monroe Country. The New World screwworm (Cochliomyia hominivorax) threatens both wildlife and pets—and it can even affect humans.

What Is Screwworm Infestation?

The screwworm, a female fly, lays eggs on the wound or mucous membranes of a warm-blooded animal. The larvae then burrow into the body and feed on the animal’s flesh. The infestation is treatable but if not given medical attention, it can be fatal.

Should I Be Concerned About My Dog?

While local veterinarians urge pet owners not to panic, as the insect doesn’t typically target healthy animals, they recommend keeping injured animals indoors when possible and watching for any signs of infestation or infection on wounds, lesions, or unexplained lumps (especially if accompanied by a foul odor). If you notice these signs, contact your veterinarian immediately as early treatment is key to survival.

The major concern is the health of wildlife, especially the Key deer, an endangered subspecies in the state of Florida. Sixty deaths of Key deer have already been reported, according to CNN, and because these animals are wild, infestations are more likely to go unnoticed and untreated than in companion animals, leading to death and spreading of the infestation. Officials fear screwworms could affect the livestock industry as well, and are responding with overwhelming force,” an official told CNN, to prevent the insects from proliferating.


For more information, read this fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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