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Giant African Snail Found In Texas, Officials Warn Of Potentially Deadly Parasites

May 08, 2013 12:58 PM EDT

Houston officials are in a panic over the discovery of a giant African land snail in a resident’s backyard.

Believed to be native to East Africa, the snail has since firmly established its reign throughout the IndoPacific Basin, including the Hawaiian islands.

All told, the giant African snail is one of the world’s most invasive species, as evidenced in the Florida infestation that started when a boy transported three snails back from Hawaii to keep as pets. Seven years later, that number reached 18,000 and eventually cost the state a total of $1 million and 10 years to eradicate the pests.

In all, one snail can lay as many as 1,200 eggs a year.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the snail is known to feed on at least 500 different types of plants including cassava, cocoa, papaya, peanut, rubber and most varieties of beans, peas, cucumbers and melons.

Nor does it stop there: the giant African snail is known to eat through stucco and concrete for calcium in order to strengthen their shells, which can grow to be tough enough to flatten tires.

The greatest threat, however, is the health risk posed by the small creatures. The snail is a known carrier of a number of parasites harmful to humans, including a potentially deadly form of meningitis.

“That’s crazy,” Jake Fendrick, who lives near the home where the snail was spotted, told Click2Houston. “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.”

Officials say it’s still a unclear how the snail came to Texas; however, they are encouraging anyone with potential sightings to contact the Study of Invasive Species at 936-294-3799 or visit their website.

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