Giant African snails can spread meningitis, American authorities warn

But in Africa, these snails are a pricey delicacy!

A recent detection of giant African land snails also known as GALS or Achatina achatina in a part of South Florida county has led to the region being put under quarantine.

While these snails have remained a nightmare in America, giant African snails are a top delicacy in Africa where they are native. The snails are illegal in the United States – you can’t import or possess them without a permit.

Interestingly, despite regulations, the snails’ desirability as pets has continued to increase and illegal pet trade and accidental smuggling remain the top ways GALS enter the United States.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has named the snails “one of the most damaging snails in the world” and warns of the potential health risk associated with handling the snails. GALS are treated as a major agricultural pest in America. The snails are voracious feeders that consume up to 500 different species of plants. This makes them a threat to Florida’s agriculture and the natural environment as a whole.

Giant African land snails can also cause meningitis in humans

According to the FDACS,  giant African land snails “pose a serious health risk to humans by carrying the parasite rat lungworm, known to cause meningitis in humans.”

According to the CDC, the rat lungworm – Angiostrongylus cantonensis – causes mild illness in humans with most people recovering without any treatment. But in some cases, the parasite causes a rare type of meningitis called eosinophilic meningitis of which symptoms can include “headache, stiff neck, tingling or painful feelings in the skin, low-grade fever, nausea, and vomiting”.

Snails get infected with rat lungworm when they ingest rat faeces and humans get infected when they eat raw or undercooked infected snails.

Giant African land snails are a delicacy in Africa

While they are illegal in the United States, GALS remain a top delicacy in different parts of West Africa. In Nigeria, for instance, Giant African land snails are one of the most expensive meats (per kilogram price) in markets. The natural population of snails are almost completely depleted and the traders have to rely on harvest from snail farms to meet the booming demand.

Peppered snail meat.

American government are using a molluscicide to kill off the snails

Florida State is using a metaldehyde-based molluscicide to eliminate giant African land snails from the environment. Metaldehyde pesticides work by disrupting the ability of the snails to produce mucus which helps them to feed and digest food. When this happens, the snails suffer dehydration and are dead within a few days!

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