PLAGUE

Giant Snails Invade Florida

Several dozen Florida officials are on the hunt for giant East African snails that have appeared in Miami-Dade County. The 8-inch-long snails eat 400 kinds of plants, can cause structural damage to plaster, and carry a parasitic nematode that can cause meningitis. A search-and-destroy advisory mentioned that the last time the snails were found in Florida, in 1966, they multiplied from three to 18,000 in seven years and cost $1 million to eradicate. That infestation was linked back to a boy who brought them to Miami as pets and whose grandmother released them into the garden. In the current outbreak, officials believe there is a link to a criminal investigation in which a man smuggled the snails into the state for a religious practice in which followers drank the snails' juices. Several people became violently ill.