AN URGENT warning was issued and thousands of people have been placed under quarantine after a dangerous snail was spotted in the US last month.
The Giant African Land Snail can carry meningitis and is known as the “world’s most damaging” of its species, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).
The “killer” giant African snail has resurfaced in Pasco County, Florida placing thousands of area residents into quarantine over a possible fear it could spread meningitisCredit: Getty
A community gardener in the area reported seeing the snail, which is believed to have been first smuggled into the US from Africa by followers of a religious cult based on the traditional African religion Ifa Orisha.
Cops say one woman smuggled the snails on a flight from Africa to Miami by hiding them under her skirt.
FDACS has warned that the snail poses a threat to vegetation and infrastructure due to an appetite for about 500 different plant species, as well as paint and stucco.
The snails also pose a serious health risk to humans.
That’s because they can harbor the parasite known as rat lungworm, which can trigger meningitis in humans, FDACS adds.
According to the Florida Department of Health, people can get infected by the parasite by eating raw or undercooked snails, which may be found in small fragments of unwashed produce.
As a result of the discovery, FDACS’s Division of Plant Industry has put a quarantine in place in Pasco County, which encompasses New Port Richey, and is surveying the area.
According to a map from the agency, the area impacted encompasses about 40,000 miles in the southeast corner of the Florida county.
FDACS crews are also treating properties with a snail bait insecticide that is labeled by the US Environmental Protection Agency for residential use, per the agency.
It’s not the first time the invasive mollusks have made an appearance in Florida.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, although they are not native to the state, officials have traced infestations back to the 1960s tied to having them as house pets or illegal importation by religious groups.
Giant African land snails are illegal to import or possess in the United States without a permit.
Per FDACS, the giant snail has been eradicated twice before in Florida.
The first detection was in 1969 and was eradicated in 1975.
The most recent eradication was in 2021 from a detection in 2011 in Miami-Dade County, also per the agency.
At four months old, a single snail from the species can lay thousands of eggs at a time and each can grow to be 8 inches long as an adult, CBS reports.
The snails are also mobile, with experts noting to CBS they “cling to vehicles and machinery,” plus trash, to “move long distances.”
They also have the ability to survive for a year while “inactive” and buried in soil to shield themselves from unfavorable weather, the news outlet says.
They have a light to dark brown shell with vertical stripes of a darker shade of brown on them, according to website Snail-World.
It also says they have an average lifespan of about five to seven years, but “when they have enough food, and the weather is satisfactory, they tend to live much longer.”
“Some of them have been known to live up to 10 years,” per the site.
Florida has more invasives than any other state, including the likes of walking catfish, Asian swamp eels and even Cuban tree frogs.
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