African snail
Image Alexander R. Jenner

A woman in Houston, Texas on Tuesday discovered an African Snail, a species of large land snails that can grow up to eight inches long and lay up to 100 eggs a month, in her backyard. Did I also mention that this species of snail is known to carry meningitis? The identity of the mollusk was confirmed by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, which specializes in exotic plants.

The snails, which are originally from East Africa, are particularly invasive due to their large egg laying capacity. According to a report from the state of Michigan, the snails first appeared in the U.S. in 1966, after a Miami boy brought three snails into the county. Seven years later, there were more than 18,000 of them in Florida. This is the first reported sighting of an African snail in Texas, though it might already be too late to find the source as these giant mollusks reproduce quickly and more are expected to be in the area.

Houston residents are advised to keep their distance and refrain from touching the deadly snail, according to Dr. Autumn J. Smith-Herron, the director of the Institute for the Study of Invasive Species at Sam Houston State University.

"Unfortunately, humans are picking the snails up," she told KPRC, an affiliate of NBC Houston. "They carry a parasitic disease that can cause a lot of harm to humans and sometimes even death."

The parasite, known as rat lungworm, is a form of meningitis that is normally found in Southeast Asia. African snails are a host of the parasite and could infect people within the community who come in contact.

Researchers are now being sent into the Houston area to search for the African snails and solve the issue before it's too late. Anyone who comes across a deadly snail is asked to keep their distance and to contact the Institute for the Study of Invasive Species at 936-294-3788.

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