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In The News

Current Events And Things In The News

The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is sending a team to Cuba to collaborate on wood-boring species.

With the US and Cuba improving relations, travel and trade between the two countries will begin to increase. An unintended consequence of that increase is the possibility of invasive species traveling to the US from the island nation.

“The project will assess the risks to Florida from exotic plant pests in Cuba, consistent with UF/IFAS’ mission to protect and enhance agriculture and natural resources of Florida,” the projects principal investigator, Dr. Damian Adams said in a statement.

“We will be analyzing Cuba’s policies and institutional capacity to prevent and mitigate the movement of pests,” he continued

Among the things the researchers will be studying are which species call Cuba home, the economic impact of invasive species on the United States, and Cuba’s methods of controlling these pests. They will also train Cuban scientists on state-of-the-art methods to accurately identify pests.

The project is being funded by a $228,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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Authorities in the state are using drastic measures to stop the spread of the parasitic New World screwworm in the Florida Keys. Quarantine and sterilized males are being used to stop the first outbreak in over 30 years.

USDA and state officials use radiation to sterilize male screwworms, which are actually a species of fly. The male flies are then released to mate with the females. Any eggs that are laid won’t hatch thus killing the population.

The Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, Adam Putnam, declared a state of emergency after confirming an infestation in Key deer on Sept. 30. That particular subspecies of white-tailed deer is an endangered species making the containment of this issue all the more important.

"While it sounds like a Halloween joke, it poses a grave threat to the last population of the subspecies of Key Deer," Putnam told CNN. "And if it gets beyond the Keys, it represents an enormous threat to the US livestock industry, because of potential quarantines and trade barriers that could occur if it gets into the livestock population."

The screwworm can grow as large as common houseflies only with orange eyes. They lay eggs in open wounds in mammals and the hatched larvae feed on living flesh.

Infestations are easy to detect in humans and pets according to reports. An animal health checkpoint has been set up by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for residents and visitors.



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It is so very important to stay informed on the updates that are coming out regarding the Zika virus. One of the main reasons this is important is that it seems like a large amount of contradictory information is finding its way into the media landscape. If we can take in whats reported, and try to sift through the most relevant information, we may have a decent idea of what it is that is taking place. The Technical Director here at Falcon found the following two articles to be of particular interest regarding the ike Virus and it's on-going effects:

Zika Virus Infecting Hospitality Industry (Multibriefs)

CDC Sounds Warning on Zika Virus (USA Today)


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This is a great video out together by the always excellent SciShow

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Posted by on in In The News
How is Zika virus transmitted?
Zika virus is spread through the bite of an infected Aedes genus of mosquitoes, which is the same mosquito species that carries dengue fever and chikungunya. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are the primary carriers, but Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, also known as the Asian tiger mosquito, might also transmit the virus.
Where is Zika virus found?
The growing pandemic is currently present in South and Central America. Please reference the CDC's Travel Alerts for more information on areas of concern. There have also been reports of Zika virus cases in Illinois, Florida, Texas, New York and more, but all of the individuals obtained the disease while traveling to countries where Zika virus is endemic
What are the chances of an outbreak in the United States?
While we can't speculate on the virus and its potential to spread, it is better to be prepared and practice vigilance in mosquito control by protecting yourself from coming into contact with mosquitoes and by eliminating breeding grounds at home should there begin to be cases of local transmission here in the United State. So far, all human cases reported in the U.S. have resulted from travel abroad.
How can I prevent mosquitoes?
  • Most counties have a mosquito abatement program in place to minimize the local population and help keep the public safe. These programs typically involve trapping mosquitoes in different areas and testing them for known pathogens. This helps monitor the spread of diseases and warn the public of risks in the area. County programs may also include plans for periodic spraying or fogging to eliminate adult mosquitoes.
  • Eliminate areas of standing water around the home such as flowerpots, birdbaths, baby pools, grill covers and other objects where water collects. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in water where the larvae develop and need only about 1/2 inch of water to breed.
  • Screen all windows and doors. Repair even the smallest tear or hole.
  • Minimize outside activity between dusk and dawn, when the majority of mosquitoes are most active.
  • If you must spend time outdoors during peak mosquito times, or when you will be outdoors for extended periods, wear long pants and sleeves and use an insect repellant containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon-eucalyptus.
  • It is especially important to wear effective insect repellents and protective clothing if traveling outside the U.S. Mosquito-borne diseases that may be rare in the U.S. are common in many foreign countries.
  • If you are concerned about mosquito activity on your property, contact a pest management company or your local health department.
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