Expert Says: African Land Snails Threaten Humans. They Forced Florida Community To Quarantine.

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Florida already has a lot of scary animals and critters who regularly cause havoc. Now, one county in the Sunshine State is battling massive invasive snails. According to the Pasco County’s New Port Richey, African land snails can reach the size of a human’s hand and were found recently. Metro

Afterward, the area quickly entered into quarantine.

Giant African land snails originated in west-central Africa. According to Dr. William Kern, University of Florida Nuisance Wildlife Management Expert and Professor at the University of Florida, they arrived in other parts of this world by hitchhiking on potted plants. 

“It’s a really bad problem in Hawaii throughout the Caribbean. And then also in Florida, periodically,”Inside Edition Digital was told by him. “They are extremely destructive to horticultural crops. To some extent, they can do damage to landscape.”

He also notes that the snails are an intermediate host for rat lungworm. 

“The rat eats a snail, and it ingests the infective — so it ingests the immature worm,”He said. “The immature worm moves through, gets into the bloodstream and then ends up in the lungs. So there, it will go ahead, and it will produce eggs, and the eggs are excreted in the feces of the rat. The snails eat the rat feces. The eggs hatch and they become infected with the juvenile worm. And then the rat eats the snail, and the process continues.”

It can lead to serious health problems if humans inhale these mollusks.

“If people eat that with their salad,”Kern stated, “then they can become infected. If it gets into people because we are not the right host, it gets lost. And so, instead of ending up in the lungs, it will end up inside the eyeball. It will end up inside the brain, and when it gets into the brain, it causes meningitis.”

It is important to properly clean and cook food in order to prevent rat lungworm. Kern said commercially-produced salad mix should already be thoroughly cleaned. However, home produce needs to be rinsed well. Cooked food will kill the rat lungworm. 

Kern also stressed that people should avoid handling snails. 

“Well, I normally recommend wearing gloves,”He said. “The infectious stage of the worm can’t penetrate the skin. But if you happen to have any cuts or scrapes on your hand, there’s a possibility.”

Overall it’s best to be cautious, and homeowners who see the snails should notify the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Division of Plant Industry to assist. 

It’s also important to control the rat population in areas with African land snails.

“The other thing that we recommend is for homeowners to make sure that they keep roof rats in the neighborhood under control,”Kern noted. “And that can either be with trapping in houses or bait stations, poison bait stations. We want to try to break the life cycle in all the places where it’s susceptible. So control the snails, control the rats. And if you do that, you control the rat lungworm.”