State and federal agriculture officials in Florida have confirmed the first case of a screwworm infestation on the continental United States in 30 years, and are warning pet owners in South Florida to keep an eye out for unusual sores on their animals’ skin.

Screwworms are the larval form of blowflies and are native to warm, tropical areas. These flesh-eating parasites pose a serious health risk to pets and livestock, and officials are working diligently to contain their spread.

Agriculture officials have confirmed a case of a New World screwworm infestation in a stray dog in Homestead, Florida. It’s the first such infestation in the continental U.S. in at least three decades.

screwworm-1Wikimedia Commons / John Kucharski

Screwworms are the flesh-eating parasitic larvae of blowflies. They are named for their screw-like shape, and commonly infect pets and livestock, though they can infect humans as well.

screwworm-2University of Florida Entomology Department

Grown blowflies usually lay their eggs at the edge of open sores or cuts and when the larvae hatch, they embed themselves deep in the tissue that they consume to live, causing open lesions that necrotize rapidly.

screwworm-3Wikimedia Commons / Edibobb

In October, screwworm infestations were reported in the Florida Keys, and state and federal agriculture and wildlife officials scrambled to contain the parasites’ spread, but were evidently unable to do so.

screwworm-4Google Maps

Experts are testing animals in the Homestead area for infestations, but if you live in South Florida, it’s advised that you keep an eye on your pets for any lesions or sores that suddenly appear; if you notice anything unusual, notify a vet right away.

screwworm-5Flickr / lamzydivey

Hopefully, officials can contain the spread of these parasites before more animals become infested. If you’re a pet owner in South Florida, keep an eye on your animals!

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