Harmful giant African land snails found in Lee County

Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

A destructive, dangerous pest has been discovered in Lee County. Crews are finding Giant African Land Snails dead and alive.

The Department of Agriculture says it’s setting up a quarantine in the coastal area of Palm Beach Boulevard east of the Edison Bridge in Fort Myers and Tice.

Giant African Land Snail quarantine zone. (Credit: Florida Department of Agriculture.)

How can something so small be so harmful?

“The parasite and its effect on plants can be harmful,” said Dr. Joyce Fassbender, with FGCU. “These snails can potentially decimate your food crops.”

The Florida Department of Agriculture wants the snails found in an isolated part of Fort Myers and Lee County to go away.

“Don’t pick it up unless you’re wearing gloves,” said Fassbender.

Giant African Land Snail. (Credit: FDACS DPI)

The snails are gray, slimy, and not supposed to be here. The Giant African Land Snail is one of the most damaging snails in the world and consumes at least 500 different types of plants.

As if that wasn’t enough, the snails also pose a severe health risk to humans by carrying the parasite rat lungworm, known to cause meningitis in humans.

“If you think that you’ve encountered one, make sure that you contact the proper authorities like the USDA or the Florida Department of Agriculture,” said Fassbender.

Here’s the good news. You can’t get that parasite by looking at them. You have to ingest the snails. Your pets can also be infected by eating the snails.

“You generally just don’t want to eat them,” Fassbender said.

The Florida Department of Agriculture told WINK News they are enacting a quarantine in the area where the snails have been found.

“When it comes to these sorts of things, rather than saying that people can’t move around, what they’re really saying is that they don’t want the objects that the snail can potentially lay its eggs in or be on to move around. So that quarantine isn’t about people. It’s about plant matter, like yard clippings and potted plants and branches and building supplies,” said Fassbender.

The Florida Department of Agriculture says the quarantine will go for as long as they need it to go until the snails are eradicated from the area.

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