As if the residents of Joplin, Missouri haven't already suffered enough after a tornado ripped through their town last month killing more than 100 people, now comes this frightening new development: A powerful fungus is striking tornado survivors and has contributed to at least three deaths and maybe more. How much worse can it get for these people?
So far the fatal fungal infection -- called zygomycosis -- seems to be striking survivors who were seriously injured in the tornado. According to the community's health department, the fungus likely came from soil, vegetative materials, or other debris embedded in the wounds by the force of the tornado. The infection then spread through the blood and affected blood circulation.
The accounts from doctors whose patients were infected with the fungus sound like something straight out of a prime time medical soap opera. Said one doctor:
We could visibly see mold in the wounds ... It rapidly spread. The tissue dies off and becomes black. It doesn't have any circulation. It has to be removed.
The fungus is treatable with intravenous medicine and, in more severe cases as demonstrated in the quote above, by removing tissue in the infected area or even amputating a limb. But three, maybe four people who suffered more substantial injuries (including head trauma) were not so lucky to survive the infection. The exact number of deaths linked to the fungus is unclear at this time; it's thought that a total of nine cases of the fungal infection has been reported in hospitals throughout Joplin.
And, it's not just those injured in the tornado who are in danger. According to KYTV, some volunteers in the clean-up may be at risk, as well -- specifically, those who may come into contact with fungus residue from being scratched by nails or splinters.
The Joplin tornado already ranks as the seventh-deadliest in America. Hopefully, this fungus can be brought under control and not increase the death toll even more. In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Joplin, Missouri, in this very difficult time.
Image via Official U.S. Navy Imagery/Flickr