Joplin Tornado
12:13 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Aggressive fungus strikes Joplin tornado victims

An aggressive fungus is striking Joplin tornado victims, contributing to a handful of deaths.

Doctors told the Springfield News-Leader that at least nine survivors may have contracted blood-vessel invading zygomycosis infections.

Overall numbers weren't available. The Springfield-Greene County Health Department declined to release them, citing patient privacy concerns.

Kendra Williams, of the health department, says the common fungus likely came from soil or vegetative materials imbedded in the skin by the tornado.

After the tornado, Freeman Health System in Joplin treated more than 1,700 patients. An infectious disease specialist there, Dr. Uwe Schmidt, says some wounds that were stitched up in that rush of patients had to be reopened because they weren't adequately cleaned and had debris in them.

The News-Leader shares more of Schmidt's observations:

Schmidt said a week after the tornado, Freeman admitted three patients who had aggressive fungal infections. Doctors tried to control the fungus with intravenous medicine and by removing tissue that had been killed by the rapidly spreading infection."We could visibly see mold in the wounds," Schmidt said. "...It rapidly spread. The tissue dies off and becomes black. It doesn't have any circulation. It has to be removed."