May 8, 2013
Experts Warn Texans Not To Touch Deadly Giant African Snails
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
People in a Texas neighborhood may be looking for massive mollusks after a recent sighting of a giant African land snail in one Houston-area garden sparked interest. However, researchers are warning people to stay away from the supersized slugs as they are dangerous to touch because they have been known to carry meningitis. Anyone coming into contact with the creatures should wash their hands immediately.
Autumn Smith-Herron, director of the Institute for the Study of Invasive Species at Sam Houston State University (SHSU), told NBC affiliate station KPRC that the slugs may also “carry a parasitic disease [called rat lungworm] that can cause a lot of harm to humans and sometimes even death.”
A Briar Forest neighborhood woman found the snail while gardening and, after taking a picture, notified workers at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center who deal with invasive plants. Staff there contacted SHSU researchers.
The sighting is the first confirmed report of the giant mollusk in Texas, and it is currently unclear how the snail got there. Experts, however, believe more could be in the area, due in part to the snail´s ability to lay 100 eggs per month.
One local resident, Jack Fendrick, said he would do his part to warn others of the potentially deadly creatures.
"I think most people, kids especially, will see a big snail and want to touch it. With meningitis as one of the side effects, that's scary," he told KRPC.
Jenny Bauer of KRPC reported that researchers in the Houston area plan to look for more. She noted that anyone who spots one, should not touch it, but rather report it to SHSU´s Invasive Species department at 936-294-3788.
The Institute is currently working to confirm whether the mollusk is in fact a species of giant African snail.
Shortly after the news first broke KRPC´s Facebook page lit up with people saying they were seeing the massive mollusks in their areas. One reported seeing a giant snail in a subdivision in Katy and another reported a sighting in Sugar Land last week.
However, the USDA said a common Texas snail can often be mistaken for the giant African snail. The department said it is sending a team to Houston to look for more.
Denise Feiber, the public information director of the Division of Plant Industry in Gainesville, said that over a thousand of the giant pests are being caught each week in the Miami-Dade area and as many as 117,000 have been captured since they were first reported in September 2011.