Giant snails in the Briar Forest area have residents scared of catching a disease.

The fear is that the giant snails found and photographed by residents are African land snails.  The unusually large snails are known to carry a parasite that can cause menigitis in humans.

Dr. Autumn Smith-Herron with the Invasive Species Institute at Sam Houston University says they are not sure the snails are in fact the African land snail, "we actually have some large snail species native to Texas that people are confusing."

Dr. Smith-Herron says they have sent the pictures to the USDA for proper identification.  In the meantime though, she recommends that people not handle the snails as a precaution.

The African land snail was introduced to the U.S. in Florida by an exotic pet owner.  The snails are hermaphroditic so they can reproduce without having to mate and lay around 1,200 eggs a year.  

Since, the snails have no natural predators they multiplied very rapidly and have caused massive damage to vegatation in Florida.