A deadly snail was found in Houston, Texas on Tuesday that is potentially dangerous to touch as they are known to carry meningitis. The African snail is a species of large land snail that can grow up to eight inches long and can lay up to 100 eggs a month.
A women found one of the large snails in her backyard in a local Houston neighborhood and reported her discovery to workers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The center specializes in exotic plants, but they were quite surprised when they heard the news of the giant African snail sighting.
This is the first reported sighting of an African snail in Texas, and many people are now wondering how it got there. It may be too late to find the source as these giant mollusks reproduce quickly and more are expected to be in the area.
To put things in perspective, a report from the state of Michigan notes that boy from Miami brought an African snail into the country in 1966, and, after seven years, there were more than 18,000 of them in Florida.
Now that one’s been sighted in Texas, authorities are asking that Houston residents keep their distance and refrain from touching the deadly snail.
Dr. Autumn J. Smith-Herron, the director of the Institute for the Study of Invasive Species at Sam Houston State University, spoke with NBC Houston affiliate KPRC about the situation and the harm an African snail could bring to a human.
“Unfortunately, humans are picking the snails up,” she told KPRC. “They carry a parasitic disease that can cause a lot of harm to humans and sometimes even death.”
The life-threatening parasite is called rat lungworm. It is a form of meningitis that is normally found in Southeast Asia but has become a huge concern in Texas as African snails are hosts of the parasite and could infect people within the community who come in contact.
Researchers are now being sent into the Houston area to search for the African snails and solve the issue before it’s too late. Anyone who comes across a deadly snail is asked to keep their distance and to contact the Institute for the Study of Invasive Species at 936-294-3788.
[Image via Alexander R. Jenner]