Joplin Fungus: Some Joplin Tornado Victims Suffering From Rare, Aggressive Fungal Infection

Posted on June 11, 2011

At least five Joplin tornado victims are being treated for a rare, aggressive fungal infection. The mucormycosis fungal infection can occur when dirt or vegetative material gets embedded underneath a person's skin. This could happen to a person who endures violent tornadic conditions. A memo sent to medical providers says the infections are causing necrosis of soft tissue.

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department was made aware of medical concerns associated with tornado victims. Please see the statement below:

All Medical Providers Caring for Joplin Tornado Victims

Several patients have been identified recently with aggressive fungal soft tissue infections. These patients were transferred in from the field and had lacerations that were closed at the scene. These patients have developed cellulitis followed by aggressive necrotizing soft tissue infection. Despite aggressive surgical debridement, the wounds have continued to advance. Microscopy demonstrates invasive fungal elements with capillary thrombosis. Grossly, the wounds have a cellulitic appearance with necrosis of the deeper aspect of the wound. The fat has a saponified appearance. In some cases gross fungal elements are visible with the naked eye. Despite aggressive surgical debridement, the necrosis reoccurs within 24 hours. Treatment currently consists of aggressive serial surgical debridement with IV amphotericin therapy.

CBS News reports that three of the patients with fungal infections have died, but because the patients were suffering from multiple problems it is not possible to say the fungal infection was a cause of death. A doctor told CBS News that mold could visibly be seen in the victim's wounds.

Update: A CNN report confirms that one person died because of the mucormycosis.

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