Kuttippuram: A study conducted on African snails has proved that the seemingly innocent molluscs can cause serious health issues and even death. Keerthi Vijayan, a researcher at Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI), conducted the study.
Scientifically named as Achatina fulica, giant African snails were recently spotted in large numbers at Tavanur in Malappuram. It has been found that the snails may cause brain diseases. Recently, 10 children affected with brain diseases in Ernakulam were found to have contracted it from these snails.
A separate wing is functioning at Peechi KFRI to inform the presence of African snails. These snails were spotted in all districts of Kerala except Idukki. It has been found that the snails cannot survive in cold places.
Commonly found in African countries, the snails reached India in 1847. It reached Kerala for the first time in 1955 in Palakkad through a research student. It became a menace in Palakkad by 1965-70. Even the government intervened to get rid of the snails.
Later, the snails started to be a headache again in 2010. The snails are capable of hibernating upto 3 years and can survive upto 5 years. So, it is very hard to eliminate them. They are mostly spotted during monsoon period.
Problems caused by African snails
Snails destroy more than 500 varieties of crops including taro, yam, ginger, okra, spinach, long beans and plantain.
They stick to concrete platforms to absorb calcium which is why they are spotted in households and makes walls fragile.
The snails are carriers of Angiostrongylus cantonensis worms and causes the disease eosinophilic meningitis.
Ways to get rid of snails
Do not touch or eat the snail or its slime.
While eating meat of animals or birds that eat the snails, make sure the meat is cooked well.
Wash vegetables and fruits thoroughly as the slime and excreta of snails are likely to stick on them.
Drink only boiled water.
To stop snails from spreading
Make sure snails do not stick to vehicles while parking in snail-infested areas.
Make sure snails are not present in logs while taking wood to sawing mills.
Do not take snails out of curiosity.