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Some of the giant snails captured in Pasco carried disease that causes meningitis, official says

Giant African land snail Pasco (Florida Department of Agriculture).png
Florida Department of Agriculture
Some of the giant African land snails that were captured in Pasco County were found to carry the disease that causes meningitis in people.

The invasive, exotic snails were first found in New Port Richey last month and more than 1,000 have since been captured.

Some of the giant African land snails captured in Pasco County have been confirmed to carry rat lungworm, which can cause meningitis in people.

Whitney Elmore, director of the UF/IFAS Extension in Pasco says that discovery is concerning.

“Typically the disease if you did get it would be mild to moderate, but it can result in a pretty significant illness," Elmore said.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms can include a headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity and confusion.

As recently as two weeks ago, state agriculture officials said they had not yet detected rat lungworm in the snails collected from New Port Richey properties.

So far, the snails have not been found outside of the initial quarantine zone. But more snails were captured outside of the original location where they were first identified. And officials have captured the snails in all stages of life.

Giant African land snail quarantine area (Florida Department of Agriculture).jfif
Florida Department of Agriculture
The quarantine area for giant African land snails in New Port Richey.

They were first detected by a home gardener in late June. Since then, more than 1,000 of the invasive, exotic snails have been collected from dozens of properties within the quarantine zone.

The snails can grow up to eight inches long and are known to consume about 500 plant species and, in some cases, the stucco off of houses.

A graphic in the shape of a ruler depicting through drawings the life cycle of a giant African land snail from eggs, to neonate at .5 inches or less, to juvenile up to 2 inches, to an adult up to 8 inches.
Florida Department of Agriculture

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