The alarming discovery of giant African snails — which can stretch up to 8 inches long — has sparked concern and quarantines in a Florida county.
The state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs confirmed the presence of the mammoth mollusks in Pasco County this week and warned residents to keep their distance.
The snails carry the frightfully named rat lungworm parasite that can induce meningitis in humans, officials cautioned.
The invasive snails are also capable of ravaging vegetation and are known to dine on more than 500 types of plants.
“These snails could be devastating to Florida agriculture and natural areas as they cause extensive damage to tropical and subtropical environments,” according to FDACS
Health officials cautioned residents not to handle the snails without proper protective gear.
Hoping to eradicate the pests, FDACS will bait certain areas with a poison that impedes their ability to create mucus and kills them within a few days.
The initial discovery was made by a gardener in Pasco County, which responded with a quarantine order for a limited area.
Yard waste and building materials cannot be removed from the impacted zone without permission from state authorities.