Belize on alert for New World screwworms

BELMOPAN, Belize (CMC) – The Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) says it is closely monitoring the outbreak of New World screwworms in Central America where Panama has declared a State of Zoosanitary Emergency and reported cases in cattle, pigs, dogs, and horses.

The New World screwworm (Cochliomyia hominivorax) is a parasite that can affect all mammals, including humans.

The authorities say female flies of the Calliphoridae family and Chrysomyinae subfamily are attracted to wounds and exposed mucous membranes where they lay eggs. After a period of 12 – 24 hours, the larvae emerge and feed on the skin and underlying tissue of the host. This causes a condition known as a wound or traumatic myiasis, which can be fatal.

Belize said it had become free from the New World screwworm in 1992 and has maintained this status since then.

“The possibility of reintroduction of the parasite into Belize is a potential threat to the livestock, small stock and avian industries, wildlife, and humans. To ensure that the country remains free from the New World screwworm, BAHA has recategorised the risk of importation of animals from the affected countries as high and has heightened importation conditions to include mandatory veterinary inspection at ports of entry. “

BAHA is reminding the public that the illegal importation of animals and animal products remains a threat to the health, safety, food security, and livelihood of all Belizeans.

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