Giant disease-spreading snails found in Texas

Giant African land snail discovered in backyard of Houston home

Published On: May 07 2013 04:17:28 AM CDT   Updated On: May 07 2013 04:25:00 AM CDT
Giant Snail Danger
HOUSTON -

A giant African land snail was discovered in the backyard of a Houston home and now researchers are sending out a warning.

"Unfortunately humans are picking the snails up," said Dr. Autumn J. Smith-Herron, Director of the Institute for the Study of Invasive Species at Sam Houston State University.

"They carry a parasitic disease that can cause a lot of harm to humans and sometimes even death," he said.

The parasite is called rat lungworm which is a form of meningitis. Humans should not come in contact with the snail and if they do need to wash their hands thoroughly.

A woman who lives in the Briar Forest neighborhood in Houston spotted a big snail in her backyard garden and snapped a picture of it.

She notified workers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center who deal with invasive plants, and they contacted researchers at Sam Houston State University.

This is the first known spotting of a giant snail in Texas and it is unknown how it got here.

They reproduce rapidly and can lay 1,200 eggs a year. It's likely there are more thanĀ  the giant snail spotted in the area.

"That's crazy," said Jack Fendrick. He lives in the area and hadn't heard about the rare finding. "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."

Researchers are going to send teams to the Houston area to look for more. Anyone who sees one can call the Institute for the Study of Invasive Species at 936-294-3788.