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 Attack of the killer African snails that can give you meningitis

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Posts : 7988
Join date : 2012-05-29
Location : Manchester UK

PostSubject: Attack of the killer African snails that can give you meningitis    Sun 09 Jun 2013, 21:33

Attack of the killer African snails that can give you meningitis

(NaturalNews) A recent scare in Texas has drawn attention to a
remarkably destructive invasive species that, in addition to wreaking
havoc on local agriculture and ecosystems, can actually give human
beings meningitis.

The giant African land snail (also known as the East African land snail, or Achatina fulica),
is considered one of the world's foremost invasive species. Growing up
to 3 inches (7 cm) high and 8 inches (20 cm) long, the snail feeds on at
least 500 separate kinds of plants, lives for nine years, and lays
nearly 1,200 eggs per year. In addition to devastating agricultural and
wild plants, these snails can feed on materials as unusual as plastic
signs and recycling bins, or even the stucco on building walls. The
pointy edges of their shells are sharp enough to actually blow out the
tires of vehicles that drive over them.

As the United States is
not their native habitat, these snails have no predators and have begun
reproducing unchecked; more than 100,000 of the snails were collected by
Florida wildlife officials earlier this year. And as if all that
weren't enough, the snails often play host to a small (1-inch) organism
known as the rat lungworm. This nematode typically inhabits the hearts
and pulmonary arteries of rats, but if ingested by humans can migrate
into the central nervous system and cause eosinophilic meningitis. This
disease, in turn, can lead to death or to permanent nerve and brain

"If a person comes in contact with the snail, the
nematode present can then enter the person's body, eventually making its
way into the brain," said Mark Fagan of the Florida Department of Agriculture.

Although many slugs and snails
carry rat lungworms, they typically cannot transmit the parasites to
humans unless they are eaten. But some species, including the giant
African snail, also leave behind living lungworms in their slime trails.
This is a particular concern with the African snail, which leads
substantial trails all over garden plants that may then be eaten by
unwitting humans. Another concern is that because the snails are so
large, people are more likely to pick them up and handle them.

Don't pick them up

addition to Florida, the invasive snails have also been spotted in the
Great Lakes area. And on May 8, residents of a Houston neighborhood had a
scare when a local woman took a photo of a giant snail and reported it
to local authorities.

"Unfortunately, humans are picking the snails up," said Autumn J. Smith-Herron of Sam Houston State University. "They carry a parasitic disease that can cause a lot of harm to humans and sometimes even death."

crazy," local resident Jack Fendrick said. "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."

Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA) later identified the Texas snails as a native (non-meningitis
carrying) species, the African snail is still a serious concern in other
regions of the country. Authorities urge people to remain alert and not
to pick up unusual-looking snails.

"We have no reason to believe
there are Giant African Snails in Texas at this time," said Tanya
Espinosa, a spokeswoman for the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
"When you see something that you don't recognize and you think may be
an invasive pest, please report it. You can do this by going to the
Hungry Pest website at, or calling your State's USDA office, State Agricultural office or extension offices."

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