ODESSA, Fla. -- Just one year after first appearing in Southwest Florida, an invasive species that can infect you with a deadly disease is now further into Florida.
Alicia Tait is great at keeping her kids entertained during the summer. But she also wants to make sure they are safe.
Living in Odessa, she knows there might be snakes or even alligators around. But what about the New Guinea flatworm?
“I never heard of them at all. We have all kinds of bugs in Florida, so I thought I’d seen it all.," she said.
The New Guinea flatworm originated in that South Pacific Island, but made its way to Miami in recent years, likely mixed in with plants and tropical fruits.
Last summer, the species started appearing in Southwest Florida.
Experts say don’t touch the worms because they have a toxic slime that can cause an allergic reaction.
They can carry a parasite that can infect people, even leading to meningitis.
“I’ve got two dogs and they eat things that they aren’t supposed to eat all the time. I’ve got a toddler and a baby, so any kind of toxic bugs definitely alarm me," said Tait.
The concern even sparked a rumor that you should call 911 if you see one of the black and grey creatures.
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission said that’s overstating the danger, but the real concern is to our ecosystem, because these pests feed on snails.
You can kill the New Guinea Flatworm by pouring boiling water on them and use a plastic bag to pick them up.
“I will definitely keep an eye out for them. I’ve heard of some ways to get rid of them so I’m going to take that advice and make sure that they are nowhere on my property," said Tait.
FWC is tracking the spread of these worms, so if you find one, contact FWC’s Exotic Species Hotline at 1-888-IVE-GOT1 (1-888-483-4681)