Locals are terrified after a fist-sized giant African snail was spotted in a man's garden – prompting officials to set traps for the potentially deadly animal.
The giant African land snail destroys plants and can carry a parasite known to give people meningitis, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
One such beast was found by a gardener in Pasco County, Florida, recently, sparking efforts to capture the slimy character.
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This is despite the species previously having been eradicated twice in Florida. First discovered in the state in the 60s, it took officials ten years and a total of $1 million to eradicate it, according to the USDA.
The first detection was in 1969 and was eradicated in 1975. The most recent eradication of this pest was in 2021 from a detection in 2011 in Miami-Dade County.
Prior to the recent detection, the last live snail in Florida was collected in Miami-Dade County in December of 2017.
The worry comes because the beast consumes at least 500 types of plants, causes structural damage to plaster and stucco structures by gnawing at them, and carries a parasitic nematode that can lead to meningitis in humans.
The snails carry the rat lungworm larvae, whose adult form is only carried by rodents. Infected rats pass larvae of the parasite in their poo.
Snails and slugs get infected by eating the larvae.
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These larvae mature in snails and slugs but do not become adult worms. The life cycle is completed when rats eat infected snails or slugs and the larvae further mature to become adult worms.
People can get infected by eating raw or undercooked snails or slugs that are infected with this parasite.
Children in particular have gotten infected by swallowing snails/slugs "on a dare", according to heath officials in Florida.
People can also get infected when they eat lettuce that has a snail or slug on it.
In an effort to combat the problem Florida officials yesterday, June 29, began using metaldehyde, a pesticide used to control snails and slugs.
Metaldehyde works by disrupting the mucus production ability of snails and slugs. This reduces their digestion and mobility and makes them susceptible to dehydration.
Snails and slugs that have eaten metaldehyde often seek hiding places, become inactive and begin to die within days.
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