Giant Snails Found in Texas, But Don’t Freak Out

Giant potentially parasite-laden African snails have been sighted in Texas, but how worried should you be?

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Florida Department of Agriculture Division of Plant Industry / REUTERS

A Giant African land snail, which can grow as big as a rat and gnaw through stucco and plaster.

It’s perfect viral fodder: First an unusually large stucco-snarfing snail shows up unexpectedly in someone’s Texas garden, then the words “invasive,” “meningitis” and “deadly” start circulating with gusto.

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In more mundane reality, a gardener in Houston recently discovered what’s sometimes referred to as a giant African land snail (scientific name Achatina fulica) in her yard. The snails, which can measure up to three inches in height and eight inches in length, often host a variety of parasites, including a critter called Angiostrongylus cantonensis, more commonly known as “rat lungworm” because it tends to lodge in the pulmonary arteries of rats. If humans contract this particular parasite, they can develop something called eosinophilic meningitis.

Terrified yet?

Well, for starters, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, humans tend to be infected only “under unusual circumstances” — namely consuming infected snails raw or undercooked. Even then, the CDC says, “most people recover fully without treatment” and notes:

The parasite dies over time, even without treatment. Even people who develop eosinophilic meningitis usually don’t need antibiotics. Sometimes the symptoms of the infection last for several weeks or months, while the body’s immune system responds to the dying parasites. The most common types of treatment are for the symptoms of the infection, such as pain medication for headache or medications to reduce the body’s reaction to the parasite, rather than for the infection itself. Patients with severe cases of meningitis may benefit from some other types of treatment.

Infections in the U.S. are particularly rare, too. As Discovery News notes, a boy contracted the parasite back in 1993 after swallowing a slug on a dare. He became ill, but recovered a few weeks later without special treatment. That said, the CDC advises common-sense sanitation measures: anyone that handles snails or slugs should wear gloves and wash their hands.

What of the snails themselves? Giant African snails are listed among the top 100 most invasive species in the world, potentially threatening Texas’ plants and crops as well as house owners, since it turns out these snails are rather fond of calcium-bearing stucco (it helps their shells). It’s not the first time a U.S. state has had to deal with the snails either: Florida’s been capturing up to 1,000 a week in recent months, and according to the Invasive Species Specialist Group, A. fulica threatened the Sunshine State back in 1969 and “would have caused an annual loss of USD 11 million … if its population had not been controlled.”

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59 comments
AllisonBryant
AllisonBryant

My daughter contracted eosinophilic meningitis due to angiostrongylus right after this was posted!  We never figured out how she got the rat lung worm parasite and I am in Houston Texas.  So was it native or African?

Altold
Altold

These kind of snails (in the pic.) are common African delicacies and consumers rush for it. It is a very good source of protein. Farmers are encouraged to grow it and government even grant loans to encourage snail farming. There is nothing to be afraid of.

kentmorgan
kentmorgan

USDA says it was not a giant African snail but a rosy wolf snail which is native to Texas. I guess discovery.com has newer information. lol

ChikuMisra
ChikuMisra

Train the snails to do what the bees used to before they went extinct.

MarcShakter
MarcShakter

We can always do what they do with them in Africa... Eat them. We can eat other species into extinction why not these snails?

danorton
danorton

Wow, even Time "freaks out" at this story with the headline. No, snails were not found in Texas. One, singular lonesome snail was spotted, according to their own report and I haven't seen a report of another. I expect better from Time. It's Time to lower my expectations, I guess.

SteveSolomon
SteveSolomon

Considering it's Texas....they'll be running the state in a few years.

PatrishDehler
PatrishDehler

Oh, great I live in  central Florida in a stuccoed house!  I like snails and slugs, but poor Florida, we have the large constrictors in the Everglades, some Cane Toads and now we have to work about giant snails!  Live is never dull.

Sgt.Bilko
Sgt.Bilko

This must be North Koreas attempt at using biological weapons on the US. Imagine Kim Jong Un plotting the slowest invasion ever. If these large ‘Korean-ized’ African snails were left alone, in a hundred years they may take over North America without anyone noticing until it’s to late. We are being invaded! What chance do we have when illegal’s working as gardeners may be our only hope! They will wage war on these invasive pests! Not with guns & bombs, but with rocks & shovels. Warfare is heading back to the stone ages. We should cook the snails & send them to North Korea as their emergency food relief before it’s to late. (spoof).

BruceThompson
BruceThompson

I'm rigging a hay fork on my Fisher plow frame... Going  Escargot gigging while driving my road trip..

BruceThompson
BruceThompson

Just buy 10-ply LT tires and your ride will be safe... Sure, your Cadillac might ride a bit rough, but it'll get you there. 

rcaldropoli
rcaldropoli

I believe these are in New York as well. I saw this same snail in my yard on May 11 and was only slightly smaller but thought nothing of it. www.tarrytownnyweather.com

3fingeredalien
3fingeredalien

To those who think there are only 3 fingers on this individual's hand...  have a closer look.  See the pinkie tip just sticking out toward the front of the snail?  That makes four fingers.  Now take your right hand and turn it over like you are holding the snail.  See how your pinkie is quite a bit shorter that the other fingers?  Makes sense that it would just be visible in this picture, right?  See where your thumb is?  Attached way back so in the case of this picture you can just see where the thumb is back where it should be.  You seriously need better observational skills if you thought this was a three fingered hand!

GeorgeHarman
GeorgeHarman

Is it just me, but where are the persons other fingers holding the snail?

ibz'n'earz
ibz'n'earz

I think I'm more freaked out by the odd shaped hand... I mean I see three but maybe a fourth digit but where's the fifth digit!

BillShut
BillShut

Haven't seen a snail yet that can survive a nice little trail of salt surrounding it!

EmigdioAlvarez
EmigdioAlvarez

Giant Snails in Texas, Giant Ants in Florida, what's next?

tdiamante
tdiamante

Makes sense. Texas has giant slugs running the GOP and a giant slime sucker as governor.

No story here....


JonH
JonH

Uh Mark, that story about the giant snails was retracted a days after it ran.  Turns out the snails found were of a different variety that is actually helpful.

mtg176
mtg176

I lived in Swaziland (southern Africa) from 2010-2012.  We had these in our yard all the time.  Nothing to fear or cause hysterics for heaven's sake.

DJReality
DJReality

Supper Soakers filled with salt water should do the trick

fitty_three
fitty_three

Call Rick Perry.  He'll know what to do.

DerekBodner
DerekBodner

The solution,,,,,,giant salt shakers.

PeterFratzioli
PeterFratzioli

The solution is simple...smash them on the concrete...or the wall of your neighbor's house. It's how we killed snails by the hundreds, maybe thousands, when I was a kid in Los Angeles. Does it work? You bet! I was back home a few years ago and did not see a single live snail anywhere, and my visit was 5 years long. Bring it, snail face...you'll lose.

ScottAlexander
ScottAlexander

There's plenty of other things to freak out about in Texas...like the fact that they don't bother regulating their businesses when those businesses do dangerous things like manufacturing and storing fertilizer.

JonHedoesIt
JonHedoesIt

Like they say: EVERYTHING'S BIGGER IN TEXAS! 

AardvarkZoolander
AardvarkZoolander

I'm not sure but I'm either more concerned with the person that only has three fingers holding the snail or the fact that the glove manufacturer makes gloves for people with three fingers. Either way, that's crazier than big snails!

litespeed74
litespeed74

I've seen tons of Texan snails. They are on I-70 clogging up the freeway to the ski slopes. 

Seriously though,  pretty wild stuff. It can never be a good thing when a snail can "gnaw"

BerylSmith
BerylSmith

Soooo anyone else notice the guy with three fingers wearing three-finger glove?

TomSmith1
TomSmith1

With a black majority in Washington DC,  GiantCOCKS now in Washington.

TomSmith1
TomSmith1

With a blacki majority in Washington DC,  GiantCOCKS now in Washington.

elvisthree16
elvisthree16

Well shoot, everything's bigger in Texas.  

bdsheehan1972
bdsheehan1972

@3fingeredalien A likely story, especially given your nom de plume... trying to cover up your fellow 3-fingered comrade, eh? We're on to your tricks. 

Try as you might, myself and all the other readers know the bitter truth... the hand holding the snail has 3 fingers.

RigPerez
RigPerez

@mtg176Not for you because they are from there. Here they will destroy the ecosystem and homes. 

jerryabr
jerryabr

@fitty_three He will put it on the ticket and have a VP candidate he can "carry in his pocket". One slug carrying another in TX. Only we have not seen Perry eating stucco--yet.

SeanLowe
SeanLowe

@AardvarkZoolander There are 4 fingers.  The pinkie is shadowed and underneath the neck of the snail.  You can only barely see the end of it.

AardvarkZoolander
AardvarkZoolander

@jmsknn CNN/Time won't dare do a redaction or correction, unfortunately. Sensationalism doesn't sell if it's true.