News and information from the Monroe County Tourist Development Council



Screwworm Treatment Efforts to Begin Tuesday


Federal, state and Monroe County officials said aggressive efforts to eradicate the New World screwworm from Big Pine and No Name keys will begin Tuesday with the release of male-radiated flies imported from Panama.


There is no evidence of the screwworm moving beyond those two keys, officials said, speaking at a news conference in Key Largo.


“These are not (genetically) modified or engineered flies, except that they’re sterilized,” said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.


The sterilized flies are to be released twice weekly on Big Pine and No Name keys for up to 25 weeks, Putnam said.


All visitors and residents traveling to and from the Florida Keys with animals are required to have them inspected during a brief examination at an Animal Health Check Zone at mile marker 106, off the shoulder of the northbound lanes of the Florida Keys Overseas Highway in Key Largo. About 200 an

imals have been checked so far, with no evidence of the screwworm disease.


The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced a Notice of General Animal Quarantine – stretching from the southern border of Key Largo Island at Mile Marker 91 south to Key West in Monroe County-- on Oct. 3. All non-livestock domesticated animals, such as dogs, cats, exotic birds, chickens and other pets, must be inspected at the health check.


The checkpoint, open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., is to ensure that domestic animals are not infected with screwworms, or fly larvae infesting many endangered Key deer, a subspecies of the white-tailed deer, and several domestic animals. The flies can enter an animal through an open wound.


Eradication includes fly trapping to determine extent of the infestation, release of sterile flies to eliminate the screwworm fly population and disease surveillance. 


“Visitors should know that the screwworm appears to be contained to the Big Pine Key region,” Putnam said. “If you suspect your pet has screwworm, you shouldn’t be fearful. It can be treated. Take it to a vet.”


Pet owners should frequently inspect their animals, said Florida State Veterinarian Dr. Michael Short. If an animal is infected, “it will be obvious,” Short said. Treatment in early stages involves checking for larvae, cleaning a wound, applying ointment, and vigilant inspection, the state official said.


About 60 Key deer, out of the endangered herd of an estimated 1,000, have been euthanized or died since early July because of screwworm, said Dan Clark, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service refuge manager who oversees the National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key. “With pets, it’s all about wound management. There’s no need to panic.”


For additional information, contact: 800-HELP-FLA (800-435-7352). For concern about Key deer, call 888-404-3922 or 305-470-6863.