Las Tunas, Cuba.- "A worker from the Victoria de Girón semi-protected urban farm, in the capital municipality, called to make the report of some snails with the characteristics of the giant, which he found in the perimeter fence." He had seen in the National Newsletter the morphology of the mollusk and they were very similar.
"We went there and finally he was right," Odalys Peralta Cervantes, provincial director of the Plant Health Research Institute told 26Digital.
"The specialists carried out the collection and transferred the specimens to our laboratory, the entomologists did the necessary tests and concluded that it was the invasive species, and we immediately packed the sample and sent it to the Quarantine Laboratory at Havana, and that's where they diagnosed the coincidence.
"From that moment we spread the news through the relevant channels and the response of the Civil Defense was accurate, the Temporary Group of Confrontation was immediately activated and all agencies were called to implement an action plan to eradicate this threat.
"The first we did was to quarantine the area where the mollusk was sighted, we extracted 13 specimens at first, a total sanitation was made and we are still working by those environs. We have inspected from the farm's crops to the perimeter fence, with the timely application of lime in the surrounding areas.
"We ask the population not to be alarmed, we are prepared to face this plague, we want to clarify that, in the presence of a mollusk with similar characteristics, the procedure is not to manipulate, and to notify our entity immediately."
DO NOT TOUCH
Lieutenant Colonel Elfio Martí Beatón, coordinator of the aforementioned Temporary Group in the territory, assured that up to now they have found around 200 specimens in areas near where the first litter was spotted.
"A multisectorial brigade, formed by members of Aqueduct, Community Services Company and Public Health, continues working on the screening of the ditch between Julián Grimau and 68 streets. The largest amount has been captured in nearby garbage dumps and a barren plot."
Aldo Cortés González, deputy director of Epidemiology of the Provincial Center of Hygiene and Epidemiology, pointed out that the population should consider the African giant as a very dangerous vector, because it transmits diseases such as eosinophilic meningoencephalitis and abdominal virus-infection syndrome, both represent a considerable risk for life.
"Given this threat, it is very important to wash fruits and vegetables well, Aldo reiterated, "since we are talking about a species of generalist habitat and can walk anywhere, even inside homes." The snail in question is very colorful and the children usually play with animals, you have to be alert and avoid physical contact.
"We emphasize: if you find a mollusk with similar features, what it is indicated is to call Plant Health and not manipulate. And in doing so it is essential to wear rubber gloves, put the animal in a plastic bag and add salt or lime (both substances are deadly to the invader.) Then wait for the experts to proceed to his burial, since it must be away from sources of drinking water to prevent the collective contagion."
The Temporary Group leads the searches in Las Tunas. All the organisms have been called to carry out the verification of their competences and the calling is to eradicate such a harmful presence for human health and agriculture.
Together with the performance of the qualified authorities, Las Tunas inhabitants must remain alert to the proliferation of the plague, and to check the courtyards and gardens with assiduity. As in other vectors, hygiene and vigilance are the best antidotes.
Its scientific name is Achatina fulica and is considered one of the 100 most harmful invasive alien species in the world, according to the list prepared by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is capable of displacing local snail populations from one site to compete for the same habitat.
This is due to its high resistance to environmental variables, accelerated body growth, polyphagous diet of more than 200 types of plants, including several crops (citrus, coconut, banana, rice, vegetables, ornamentals ...), in addition to decomposing organic material; and its reproductive potential, which favors spreading.
Doctor of Biological Sciences Antonio Alejandro Vázquez Perera, head of the Laboratory of Malacology of the Institute of Tropical Medicine Pedro Kouri (IPK), told the Granma newspaper that studies have allowed associating its expansion with Yoruba religious practices, through incidental introductions with these purposes.