On June 23, 2022, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) confirmed the detection of giant African land snail (GALS) in the New Port Richey area of Pasco County. This detection was reported by a Pasco County Master Gardener.
Officials set up a quarantine zone to contain them as they took steps to destroy the population. The quarantine starts at the northwest corner of U.S. Highway 19 and Ridge Road. Proceed east on Ridge Road, south on Little Road, west on Trouble Creek Road, north on U.S. Highway 19.
To date, more than 1,400 GALS were in Florida Department of Agriculture custody. The FDACS reported they have so far checked 525 properties, finding snails in just 30.
The phenotype of the population in Pasco County differs from the ones previously eradicated in the state. This population has a light-dark brown shell with a creamy white flesh opposed to the greyish-brown flesh of the Miami area populations.
The GALS, Lissachatina fulica, is an invasive pest to the state of Florida and the United States. This pest has a lifespan of up to eight years, the ability to grow up to eight inches long and produce 2,500 eggs per year. They feed on more than 500 host plants, can damage structures by consuming stucco to obtain the calcium necessary to build shells.
The giant African land snail has been eradicated twice in Florida. The first detection was in 1969 and was eradicated in 1975. The most recent eradication of this pest was in 2021 from a detection in 2011 in Miami-Dade County. Prior to the recent detection, the last live snail in Florida was collected in Miami-Dade County in December of 2017.
Not only are GALS destructive, the snails also pose a serious health risk to humans by carrying the parasite rat lungworm.
What is rat lungworm?
Angiostrongyliasis, also known as rat lungworm, is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. It is caused by a parasitic nematode (roundworm parasite) called Angiostrongylus cantonensis.
The adult form of A. cantonensis is only found in rodents. However, infected rodents can pass larvae of the worm in their feces. Snails, slugs, and certain other animals (including freshwater shrimp, land crabs, and frogs) can become infected by ingesting this larvae; these are considered intermediate hosts. Humans can become infected with A. cantonensis if they eat (intentionally or otherwise) a raw or undercooked infected intermediate host, thereby ingesting the parasite.
Sometimes people can become infected by eating raw produce that contains a small infected snail or slug, or part of one. It is not known for certain whether the slime left by infected snails and slugs are able to cause infection. Angiostrongyliasis is not spread person-to-person.
Symptoms of angiostrongyliasis may include severe headache, stiffness of the neck and back, skin tingling, pain and sensitivity, sensitivity to light, hallucinations, nausea, vomiting and sometimes coma and death.
There is no medication or specific treatment for the infection.