Giant African snails could become a deadly, invasive menace for Houston residents.A sighting was recently reported by a woman, who spotted the terrestrial gastropod in her backyard garden, to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, an organization that deals with invasive plant species. The center quickly reached out to proper Houston researchers.
Scientists are warning that these creatures are dangerous, even deadly if you come into contact with them. Folks from Harris County, Texas are being asked to thoroughly scrub and wash their hands as these snails carry a parasite called rat lungworm, reported KPRC.
"Unfortunately, humans are picking the snails up," Autumn Smith-Herron, director of the Institute for the Study of Invasive Species at Sam Houston State University, told KPRC, an NBC affiliate in Houston. "They carry a parasitic disease that can cause a lot of harm to humans and sometimes even death."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is now investigating the slimy snails and how they arrived in Harris County, and Texas for that matter.
Land snails and slugs are the perfect hosts for the rat lungworm, a dangerous type of roundworm, and is commonly found in parts of Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and Australia. Snails likely contract the worms after coming into contact with infested rat feces.
These worms cause eosinophilic meningitis, an infection that occurs due to a large number of white blood cells in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.
According to experts, the snails waste no time when it comes to reproduction, laying 1,200 eggs per year. Once researchers confirmed the found snail to be the Giant African land snail, fears emerged that there's more where it came from.
Past accounts of rat lungworm infection involved people in Hawaii accidentally eating raw vegetables that contained slug larvae. Some of the babies were hidden inside peppers.
People who come into contact with these snails could experience several symptoms, including headaches, stiffness in the neck, skin pain, fever, nausea, and vomiting, according to NSW Government.