A Florida county is under quarantine due to the discovery of invasive giant African land snails.
A Florida county is under quarantine due to the discovery of a rapidly growing population of invasive giant African land snails.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) confirmed the presence of giant African land snails in the New Port Richey area of Pasco County on June 23, according to the FDACS website.
The snails pose a health risk to humans because they carry a parasite called rat lungworm, which can cause meningitis, Christina Chitty, director of public information for FDACS, told CNN.
They can produce up to 2,500 eggs a year, making the population difficult to control.
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According to Chitty, the population in Pasco County likely originated from the illegal pet trade.
Giant African land snails are illegal as pets in the United States.
But some exotic pet owners still have these invasive pests.
If homeowners abandon them in the wild or accidentally lose them, they can quickly become established, feeding on more than 500 different plant species and even consuming house paint and stucco as a source of calcium.
Chitty said the department is currently investigating the population and determining how many snails there are in Pasco County.
Snails are native to East Africa and can grow up to 20 centimeters long.
The quarantine went into effect on June 25 and prevents residents from moving the snail or related items, such as plants and soil, into or out of the designated quarantine area.
Residents who think they have seen a giant African land snail are advised to call the FDACS hotline and avoid touching the snail without gloves due to the risk of meningitis.
According to Chitty, FDACS plans to spend three years eradicating the population in Pasco County, using the pesticide metaldehyde to treat the soil.
"The goal is to eradicate" the snails, Chitty said.
"It's a thorough and extensive process."
This is not the first time that Florida has faced an invasion of giant snails.
In 2011, a population of these pests was discovered in Miami-Dade County.
It was not until 2021 that the population was completely eradicated.
While the Miami-Dade County snails had gray meat, the Pasco County snails have white meat, Chitty explained.