Contact: Sterling Ivey
October 12, 2012
Rat Lungworm Confirmed in Giant African Land Snail Sample Collected in Miami-Dade County
This Finding Emphasizes The Need To Eradicate This Invasive Species
Tallahassee, FL – Scientists with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Division of Plant industry (FDACS/DPI) have confirmed rat lungworm parasite, Angiostrongylus cantonensis, in samples of giant African land snails collected as part of the ongoing eradication program in Miami-Dade County. The snails have not been found outside Miami-Dade County.
“The confirmation that a small portion of the giant African land snails infesting Miami-Dade County contain rat lung worm is not surprising, however it is disturbing,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam. “This only emphasizes the urgency we feel to eradicate this destructive, dangerous invasive pest, and why this program is our highest priority,” Putnam added.
Rat lungworm parasite can be found in snails or their “slime” (mucus), and if ingested may cause a form of meningitis. To prevent infection with the rat lungworm parasite, the public is recommended to avoid handling the snails and instead, to call the Division of Plant Industry toll-free helpline at 888-397-1517 to report snail sightings. An inspector will be sent to collect the snails. If it is necessary to handle the snails, it is recommended that the public always wear gloves, thoroughly wash their hands after handling the snails, and avoid touching their hands to their mouths, noses or eyes after handling snails. In addition, it is recommended to carefully wash all produce that may have been in contact with snails before eating.
Patients with this type of meningitis usually recover without any specific treatment; however ill persons should always consult with their health care provider. No human illness due to rat lungworm has been reported in Miami-Dade County.
This situation should not to be confused with the reports of the fungal meningitis that has been tied to steroid injections.
Since program inception, giant African land snail samples have been analyzed for rat lungworm at the FDACS/DPI laboratory in Gainesville, Florida. Sampling techniques include both DNA testing and morphological testing, which employs traditional identification through a microscope. A very small volume of the parasitic worms have been found in the positive samples indicating that the level of infection is very low. Samples are being sent to the Center for Disease Control for further testing as requested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
State and federal agricultural agencies have been conducting an aggressive eradication program since the giant African land snail was identified in Miami-Dade County in September 2011. To date, more than 88,000 snails have been collected on 400 positive properties in 18 core areas of Miami-Dade County. The giant African land snail has not been found outside of Miami-Dade County.
“Keeping the public and our employees safe has been paramount to our eradication program efforts,” stated Commissioner Putnam. “With this latest finding, we are reminding our crews and the public to strictly follow the recommendations of the health care professionals when it comes to dealing with the giant African land snails,” said Commissioner Putnam.
State and federal officials continue to work closely with the Miami-Dade County Department of Health to address concerns related to rat lungworm.
If you have questions about the rat lungworm, contact the Miami-Dade County Health Department at 305-324-2400, or the Florida Department of Health at 850-245-4111.
Anyone who thinks they may have, or may have seen, a giant African land snail is asked to call the Division of Plant Industry’s toll-free helpline at 888-397-1517 to make arrangements to have the snail collected. For more information visit www.FreshFromFlorida.com/pi
Giant African land snail collected in Miami-Dade County
Photo Credit: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services