One county in Florida is under quarantine, not due to a COVID-19 outbreak, but due to snails.
As CNN reported, a population of invasive giant African land snails that can produce up to 2,500 eggs a year has invaded the county. Considering that these snails can cause meningitis, many local residents are concerned about their health.
Florida County Under Quarantine Due To Snail Outbreak
According to the website of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), giant African land snails were located in the New Port Richey area of Pasco County on Thursday, June 23.
The snails are believed to be native to East Africa and can reportedly grow up to eight inches long, which distinguishes them from the smaller garden snail.
This invasive species of snails pose a health risk to humans because they carry a parasite called rat lungworm. According to Christina Chitty, a public information director at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, rat longworm can cause meningitis.
This problem may be more severe than most realize. This species of African land snails can produce up to 2,500 eggs per year. This makes it difficult for officials to control the population.
How Did African Land Snails Make It To The United States?
It is unknown how long the snails have been in the United States or how they got here. However, Chitty believes that the snails currently located in Pasco County arrived due to the illegal pet trade.
Although Giant African land snails are illegal to own as pets in the United States, some exotic pet owners still keep them, regardless of their status as invasive pests.
However, if the pet owners decide to release them into the wild, accidentally lose them, or give them away, the population can start to spread quickly. This species of invasive snails can eat more than 500 plant species that are located in Florida. In addition, they can also eat the paint and stucco off of houses as a source of calcium.
How Many Of These Snails Are Currently Located In Pasco County?
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is currently investigating how many snails are located in Pasco County and are trying to curb the spread to neighboring counties.
The quarantine in Pasco County started on June 25, two days after the snails were discovered. The quarantine prevents residents from moving plants, soil, the snails themselves, and other potentially contaminated items from the quarantine area.
Residents who think they have seen a giant African land snail are advised to call the FDACS hotline. They have been told to avoid touching the snail to reduce their risk of contracting meningitis.
Chitty said that the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services plans to spend three years eradicating the snails from the county, which means the problem may not be solved until 2025 at the earliest. The FDACS is currently using the pesticide metaldehyde in the soil to eliminate the snail population.
Chitty admitted that “it is a comprehensive and extensive process” but “the goal is to eradicate” the snails to protect human health.
As CNN reported, residents in Florida are no strangers to combating invasive African snail species. In 2011, a population of these snails was discovered in Miami-Dade County.
The main difference between the snails located in Miami-Dade County and Pasco County is that the snails located in Miami-Dade County had grey-colored flesh and the snails in Pasco County had white flesh, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
It wasn’t until last year that they were able to fully eradicate the population, which means it took ten years to reduce the invasive snail population down to nothing.