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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An invasive giant African snail that has already had to be eradicated twice in the last 50 years in Florida is back and one county is on high alert.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) confirmed there were giant African land snails found in the New Port Richey area of Pasco County on June 23, according to FDACS’ website.
A quarantine was issued on June 25 that prevents residents from moving the snail or related items, like plants and soil, in or out of the designated quarantine area. Residents who think they have spotted a giant African land snail are asked to call the FDACS hotline and avoid touching the snail without gloves on due to the meningitis risk.
The snails pose a serious health risk to humans by carrying the parasite rat lungworm, known to cause meningitis in humans.
Giant African land snails, which can reach eight inches long, are illegal to import or possess in the United States without a permit. FDACS said the population in Pasco County likely originated from the illegal pet trade.
Last week, FDACS’s Division of Plant Industry started to survey the area, enacted a quarantine and will begin treatment for the detrimental pest. FDACS said it will treat properties with a metaldehyde-based molluscicide (snail bait). FDACS said it plans to spend three years eradicating the population in Pasco County, using the pesticide metaldehyde to treat the soil.
The snails can produce up to 2,500 eggs per year, so the population is difficult to control, officials said.
This is not the first time Florida has dealt with an invasion of giant snails, CNN reported. In 2011, a population of the pests was discovered in Miami-Dade County. It wasn’t until 2021 that the population was fully eradicated.
The first detection in Florida was in 1969 and was eradicated in 1975.