Yep, we hear you. How on earth could a snail end up on a list of the world’s most dangerous animals? Surely the worst that can happen with a snail is a bit of a slime-ing? Well, it turns out, that the worst that can happen is actually pretty grim. Would you believe us if we said that freshwater snails kill more than 200,000 people a year? More than all the deaths caused by lions, wolves and sharks, combined?
You’d better believe us, because next time you go freshwater swimming in the tropical and subtropical regions of South America, Asia or Africa, it’ll pay to be aware.
The freshwater snails that reside in these waters carry a parasite that causes a disease called schistosomiasis. Schistosomiasis is a deadly parasitic disease that causes a fever, diarrhoea, joint and muscle pain, pain in the stomach and a cough.
Spend time in water with freshwater snails and the chances are, the parasites will move from the snail to you. Small enough to penetrate your skin without you knowing, they then migrate to your blood vessels where they’ll happily stay for years, laying their eggs. And as if that isn’t gross enough, these eggs have sharp barbs on the outside allowing them to bury themselves into your tissues.
Around 10% of schistosomiasis infections results in death. So if you develop symptoms, no matter how long after visiting one of these areas of the world, its most definitely off to the docs you go.