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Mucormycosis…Heard Of It Before? Eight Tornado Victims In Joplin Are Infected By It And Three Are Dead

June 13, 2011

The CDC has announced that eight people injured by the devastating Joplin, Missouri, tornado has contracted a rare fungal infection, and three have died from it.  CDC is working with state and local health officials to investigate the cases.

All three individuals who died had serious injuries, as well a fungus infection. One of the deaths was caused by mucormycosis, but the cause of death for the other two victims has not been determined. All eight patients sustained multiple injuries and secondary wound infections, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

The fungal infection can occur when dirt, vegetation or other material becomes lodged under the skin. If the fungus stays in a limb, like an arm or leg, some treatments have necessitated amputation to save the patient. Others with wounds near the head weren’t so lucky — as soon as brain tissue started dying, it was too late to save the patient. The Joplin cases apparently are a form of the severe infection that appears with soft-tissue injuries.

For example, a spore on a tree leaf or branch can pierce the skin. The infection can progress a few weeks later and cause significant damage to tissue, which can require hospitalization, antibiotics and even removal of the tissue. Although this is a rare infection, it can have extremely serious consequences, requiring prompt medical attention. Deep skin fungal infection does not spread from human to human, Missouri officials said. No cases were attributed to air, food or water.

The National Institutes of Health says this rapid form of infection most often occurs in patients with suppressed immune systems.   Infections spread through the blood and affects blood circulation. It is unknown how many people may be suffering from infections, but the problem doesn’t stop with those injured by the tornado.

Nails or splinters may also scratch someone helping with cleanup efforts and any fungus residue on those objects may infect them.

Anyone with diabetes should be extremely careful. The National Institutes of Health lists severe symptoms of the infection: fever, headache, sinus pain, and swelling. Complications that can arise from these fungal infections include nerve damage, blindness, blood clots to the brain and lungs, or even death in extreme cases.

As of June 13, Joplin city official reported the death toll from the May tornado to now be 153.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. carrie permalink
    October 17, 2011 16:57

    I am a survivor of mycormycosis. I was diagnosed in Feb 2010. I live in Upper Michigan .I lost 1/2 of my face(mostly on the inside) and going through reconstruction surgery. Very devastating illness. Any questions feel free ask

    • October 18, 2011 02:48

      Carrie, thank you for your post. I am so sorry to hear of your illness. What a devastating disease. All the best to you as you go through your reconstruction. Regina

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