Giant snails that can infect humans with a deadly disease have been eradicated from Florida for the second time.
The invasive species is ‘one of the most damaging’ snails in the world as it chomps through at least 500 different types of plants and has no predator, says Florida’s Department of Agriculture.
To tackle the infestation, sniffer dogs were used to hunt down the shelled critters which can grow to eight inches long and live for nine years.
Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried declared the state free of Giant African land snails at a news conference in Miami on Wednesday.
Since they were first discovered to be roaming Florida in 2011, the state has collected over 168,000 of them, according to the Sentinel.
Trevor Smith, director of the division of plant industry and a Florida State Plant Regulatory official highlighted the snails’ potentially devastating impact on buildings thanks to its appetite for paint and render.
He said at the news conference: “It’ll eat your plants, and it’ll eat your house.
“Our trade partners do not want this pest. So it was absolutely imperative that we come in and eradicate this thing so it didn’t impact our international trade.”
Most worryingly though is the killer parasitic meningitis Giant African snails carry, MailOnline reports.
Humans can be infected by the mini beasts by handling them or eating raw and unwashed vegetation they have crawled over.
The consequence can be headaches, stiff necks, vomiting and sometimes even death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the 1960s a decade-long, $1 million (£735,000) effort was launched to clear southern Florida of the snails but how they returned in 2011 remains a mystery.
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What makes eradicating them so challenging is their rate of reproduction.
After mating just once, a Giant African snail can produce up to 500 eggs. Within the space of a year they will produce around 1,200 eggs.
The US Department of Agriculture explains: “Each snail contains both female and male reproductive organs.
“After a single mating, each snail can produce 100 to 500 eggs. These snails can reproduce several more times without mating again. They can generate clutches of eggs every two to three months.”
Trevor Smith said: “I’m happy to say there’s still only one place on Earth where the Giant African land snail has been eradicated and now we’ve done it twice.”