Aggressive fungus strikes Joplin tornado victims

By the Associated Press | June 10, 2011 | 10:30 AM EDT

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri doctor says his hospital treated five Joplin tornado victims for a rare fungal infection sometimes found in survivors of natural disasters.

Zygomycosis (zy'-goh-my-KOH'-sihs) is an aggressive fungal infection that can be caused by soil or vegetative material becoming embedded under the skin. It's now known as mucormycosis (myoo-kor-my-KOH'-sihs).

It's more prevalent in people with weakened immune systems but can affect healthy people who suffer trauma.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Uwe (YOO'-ee) Schmidt says three of the five patients treated for zygomycosis at Freeman Health System in Joplin have died. But noted all the patients had health problems including multiple traumas and pneumonia.

The state health department says it's received reports of eight suspected deep-skin fungal infections among Joplin tornado victims. She says all sustained trauma from the tornado.