A Houston woman discovered a giant African land snail in her garden—a slimy horror of a creature that is as disgusting as it is deadly. Jokes about killer snails aside, the reason the snails can be lethal to humans is that one of the snails' favorite foods is rat feces, and one of the things you find in rat feces is a form of meningitis called "rat lungworm." So, if you are someone like local resident Jack Fendrick, who told local news KPRC, "I think most people, kids especially, will see a big snail and want to touch it," don't do that!
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Here's the Houston report from NBC News:
Autumn Smith-Herron, director of the Institute for the Study of Invasive Species at Sam Houston State University, is worried that too many Houston residents will find the 8-inch gastropods irresistable. "Unfortunately, humans are picking the snails up," she told KPRC. "They carry a parasitic disease that can cause a lot of harm to humans and sometimes even death."
Not to encourage any snail-huggers, but Texas's Institute for the Study of Invasive Species has some sort of good news about the snails found so far on American soil: "no infected snails have been confirmed in the United States." But that doesn't mean that the snails found in Houston won't eventually gorge themselves on rat poop.
Perhaps just as disconcerting as these guys's eating habits and our penchant for taking pictures with them is that they're an invasive species, meaning they are ecological threats. "The giant snails can lay 100 eggs per month, and though only one has been found, it is believed more are in the area," reports NBC News. Do the math: that's 1,200 eggs per year and countless nightmares.