Giant snails that 'pose a serious health risk to humans' found in Florida
A Florida district is under quarantine after giant snails that can carry a parasite “known to cause meningitis in humans” were discovered.
Authorities in Pasco County urged the public to report sightings of the snails and have issued a wanted poster.
Billed as “one of the most damaging snails in the world”, the Giant African land snails can pose a serious health risk and are illegal to possess in the US without a permit.
Nonetheless, authorities in Pasco County say one or more of the shelled gastropods have been spotted and efforts are under way to contain the problem.
“These snails could be devastating to Florida agriculture and natural areas as they cause extensive damage to tropical and subtropical environments,” the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (FDACS) warning read.
“The snails also pose a serious health risk to humans by carrying the parasite rat lungworm, known to cause meningitis in humans.”
A quarantine is in place in the county, banning the movement of the snails, “plants, plants parts, plants in soil, soil, yard waste, debris, compost or building materials” out of the area without approval.
Additionally, authorities are using snail bait to try and catch or kill the slippery pests.
It’s not the first time Florida has been hit by a snail outbreak either.
Growing up to eight inches long, the snails are native to East Africa but are popular with some exotic pet owners.
Despite being famously slow-moving, they can produce up to 2,500 eggs per year making the population difficult to control.
Authorities say it could take three years to eradicate the snail population in Pasco County.
Christina Chitty, a public information director at FDACS told CNN that the new snails likely originated from the illegal pet trade.
“The goal is to eradicate” the snails, Ms Chitty said. “It is a comprehensive and extensive process.”