Food & Wine

Garden snails carry parasites, Australian health authorities warn

Updated: 14 May 2010
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Australian health authorities warn people against eating slugs and snails,
which carry parasites and are commonly found in Asia and Pacific Islands.
Australian health authorities adviced people not to eat raw slugs, following the incident of a 21-year-old man who was reported to devour a raw gastropod in a dare game, and as a result had been critically ill with a rare type of meningitis.

Health officials of the New South Wales released the warning after media reports of the young man who had to be admitted to the hospital, diagnosed with "rat lung worm" also called Angiostrongylus meningitis following a prank that required him to eat the garden slug.

Jeremy McAnulty, communicable disease chief said, the parasite carried by slugs and snails came from feaces of infected rodents that they consumed, though the cases were rare in Australia - but they were commonly found in Asia and the Pacific Islands.

The few cases observed in the past usually involved persons who have been dared to ingest a slug or snail, informed McAnulty in a public health statement.

He says, "You should not eat raw slugs or snails or other animals, and ensure that you wash your hands after touching them."

While most infected people usually experience mild symptoms that are short-lived, some could become critically ill, said Dr McAnulty.

He says some infected people are able to recover without treatment, but it can cause severe meningitis in others.

Some symptoms of meningitis include headaches, fever, stiff neck, pain in the skin, nausea and vomiting, said Dr McAnulty.

Humans are not the natural host for the parasite and it usually dies, without the intervention of a treatment and it cannot be passed from one person to the other, he said.
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