NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — A snail that can pose a serious health risk because it can carry the parasite rat lungworm, which is known to cause meningitis in humans, has been found in Pasco County, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) said.
FDACS confirmed the detection of the giant African land snail in New Port Richey on June 23, which was reported by a Pasco County Master Gardener.
FDACS's Division of Plant Industry surveyed the area, enacted a quarantine and started treatment to eradicate the pest on Wednesday.
FDACS said it will treat properties in the area with a metaldehyde-based molluscicide which is snail bait.
FDACS said the snails should not be handled without proper protection and sanitation. According to FDACS, people can get infected with rat lungworm by eating raw or undercooked snails, or by eating raw produce that contains a small snail or part of one.
The Florida Department of Health said "very few" cases of rat lungworm infection have occurred in the U.S. and most people who do get infected recover fully without treatment. Click here for more information.
Giant African land snail fast facts:
- Major agricultural pest
- Eat over 500 different kinds of plants
- Grow up to eight inches long
- No natural enemies in the U.S.
- Reproduce rapidly
- One snail can lay more than 2,500 eggs in a year
- Has been eradicated twice in Florida
- First detection was in 1969
- Before the snail found in NPR, the last live snail collected was in Miami-Dade County in Dec. 2017
The quarantine starts at the northwest corner of U.S. Highway 19 and Ridge Road. Proceeds east on Ridge Road, south on Little Road, west on Trouble Creek Road, north on U.S. Highway 19
According to FDCAS, property owners in the treatment area will be notified in person or by posted notice at least 24 hours before the planned pesticide treatment.
FDACS said metaldehyde is a pesticide used to control snails and slugs and is approved for use in a variety of vegetable and ornamental crops in the field or greenhouse, on fruit trees, small fruit plants, in avocado and citrus orchards, berry plants, banana plants and in limited residential areas.
Available products can be applied as granules, sprays, dusts or bait pellets. Applications are typically made to the ground around the plants or crops to be protected.
Click here for more information.
Think you found a giant African land snail? Refer to the ID sheet below. Still not sure? Email a photo for identification to DPIHelpline@FDACS.gov.