Florida warns residents about giant African land snails that can cause meningitis in humans: report

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Did you know that some snails can cause meningitis?

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is warning Pasco County to beware of the giant African land snail (GALS), which can carry a rare rat lungworm called Angiostrongylus cantonensis, which can cause meningitis in humans, according to a recent state pest alert.

“The giant African land snail… is one of the most invasive pests on the planet, causing damage to agriculture and the environment wherever it is found,” the report says.

Upon being notified of a “possible” snail population in New Port Richey, Pasco County on June 21, the FDACS said a property survey confirmed the presence of a white form of the giant African land snail two days later.

"The giant African land snail… is one of the most invasive pests on the planet, wreaking havoc on agriculture and the environment wherever it lives." added a report.

“The giant African land snail… is one of the most invasive pests on the planet, causing damage to agriculture and the environment wherever it is found,” the report says.
(U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

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“The phenotype in Pasco County is creamy white fleshed, as opposed to the greyish brown fleshed phenotype that was extirpated from the Miami area,” said Erin M. Moffett, director of communications for the FDACS.

Moffett told Fox News that Mellon, a shellfish detecting dog, is actively investigating the plague.

The department said on its website that they will treat the property with a special snail bait, which is a metaldehyde-based molluscicide labeled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for residential use.

Metaldehyde is a pesticide used to control snails that is approved for use on many crops, fruit trees, avocado and citrus orchards, berry plants, banana plants and restricted residential areas, their website says.

pesticides interfere with snails the ability to produce mucus, thereby reducing their digestion and mobility, making them susceptible to dehydration, according to the website.

After consuming metaldehyde, GALS often seeks shelter, then becomes inactive and begins to die within a few days, the department said.

“The FDACS Crop Division has begun site surveys, quarantines, and will begin treatment for this pest on June 29, 2022,” the State Department said in a statement.

“It is illegal to move a giant African land snail or regulated object, including but not limited to plants, plant parts, plants in soil, soil, yard waste, garbage, compost, or building materials, into, through, or out of quarantine. territory without a treaty.

The snail is popular in the pet trade in other countries, but according to the FDACS report, it is a federally banned organism that cannot be legally sold or possessed in the United States.

The snail is popular in the pet trade in other countries, but according to the FDACS report, it is a federally banned organism that cannot be legally sold or possessed in the United States.

The snail is popular in the pet trade in other countries, but according to the FDACS report, it is a federally banned organism that cannot be legally sold or possessed in the United States.
(U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

Giant African land snail is one of the most harmful snails in the world and consumes at least 500 different plant species. These snails can wreak havoc on Florida’s agriculture and natural areas as they cause significant damage to tropical and subtropical environments,” their FDACS website says.

The state first eradicated plague in 1975 after it was discovered in 1969, and most recently eradicated plague in 2021 after it was discovered in 2011 in Miami-Dade County, according to the FDACS website.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the snail can cause a disease called angiostrongliosis, or rat lungworm disease.

“The infected rat coughs up the worms from the lungs into the throat, where they are then swallowed by the rat. The worms are now in the rat’s digestive system and end up in the rat’s poop,” the CDC said in a statement.

BUT the snail becomes infected in two ways: either accidentally eating rat feces, or penetration of the worm into the body of the snail.

“When a rat eats an infected slug or snail, the cycle starts again,” the CDC added.

Most cases of rat lungworm occur in parts of Asia and the Pacific Islands, but some have been in the Caribbean, Africa, and the United States, such as Hawaii and Louisiana.

So why should people worry about this?

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and the FDACS will host a press conference on the recent discovery of GALS at the FDACS office in Clearwater, which will be streamed live on the Department's Facebook page.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and the FDACS will host a press conference on the recent discovery of GALS at the FDACS office in Clearwater, which will be streamed live on the Department’s Facebook page.
(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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People get sick when they eat raw or undercooked snails that are infected with worms, as well as eating poorly washed fruits or vegetables that also contain snails.

“People show symptoms of bacterial meningitis, such as nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness, and headaches, which are often global and severe,” the CDC said in a statement.

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“Most infections[Angiostrongylus cantonensis]disappear spontaneously over time without special treatment because the parasite cannot survive long in the human body. However, serious complications leading to neurological dysfunction or death can rarely occur.”

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and the FDACS will hold a press conference on the recent discovery of GALS at the FDACS office in Clearwater, which will be streamed live on the department’s Facebook page.