A massive snail species that is known for carrying the parasite that leads to meningitis has been found in Florida, and is causing quite an alarm for residents.
The area where the large snails have been found is under quarantine now in the Sunshine State.
Giant African land snails were found in the city of New Port Richey area, in Pasco County, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) confirmed on June 23.
The giant African land snail can grow up to 8 inches long as an adult and lay up to 2,500 eggs per year. The snails are an invasive species and can be damaging to ecosystems, as they are known for eating over 500 different plants as well as paint and stucco.
However the real concern for residents, is what can this mean for humans?
“These snails could be devastating to Florida agriculture and natural areas as they cause extensive damage to tropical and subtropical environments.
“The snails also pose a serious health risk to humans by carrying the parasite rat lungworm, known to cause meningitis in humans,” the FDACS added.
People are advised to wear gloves and protective gear when handling these large snails.
A quarantine zone was put in place on June 24, and the FDACS said its Division of Plant Industry would begin a treatment “for this detrimental pest” on Wednesday, using metaldehyde, a pesticide for snails and slugs. The pesticide will slow the snails’ ability to move and digest food through dehydration until they begin to die out.
The quarantine period will last for two years. Those inside the designated zone will not be allowed to move any plants, soil, yard waste, debris, compost or building materials outside the zone, the FDACS said. It added that anyone who has spotted one of the snails should call the Division of Plant Industry’s help line at 1-888-397-1517.
The species of snail was present in Florida in the 1960s and 1970s before being eradicated in 1975, the FDACS said. They were detected in 2011 in Miami-Dade County and eradicated again in 2021. To get rid of the snails, Florida has spent $24 million on research.
The FDACS told Newsweek that Florida is the only place in the world that has eradicated the snails.
“Without eradication, the giant African land snail could have resulted in major export and trade implications for our growers already struggling,” Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said in a statement last October.
Thanks to our friends at Newsweek for contributing to this article.