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Belize on High Alert as New World Screwworm Cases Emerge in Central America

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

The New World screwworm (Cochliomyia hominivorax), a parasite capable of affecting all mammals, including humans, has raised significant concern to authorities. 

Female flies belonging to the Calliphoridae family and Chrysomyinae subfamily are attracted to wounds and exposed mucous membranes, where they lay eggs. 

Within 12 to 24 hours, larvae emerge and begin feeding on the host’s skin and underlying tissues, leading to a condition known as wound or traumatic myiasis, which can have fatal consequences.

Belize’s past success: Eliminating the New World Screwworm in 1992

Belize, which successfully eliminated the New World screwworm in 1992 and has maintained this status since then, is aware of the potential threat posed by the parasite’s reintroduction. 

This threat extends to livestock, small stock, avian industries, wildlife, and human populations. 

BAHA’s proactive measures: Monitoring and heightening importation conditions

To ensure that the country remains free from the New World screwworm, BAHA has recategorised the risk of importing animals from affected countries as high and has strengthened importation regulations.

Additionally, mandatory veterinary inspections at ports of entry are now included in the heightened importation conditions. 

BAHA is reminding the public about the dangers associated with the illegal importation of animals and animal products. The agency stresses that such practices can jeopardize the health, safety, food security, and livelihoods of all Belizeans.