WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Fungal infections follow tornado as threat

Posted June 21, 2011

Tornadoes can be deadly and destroy lives and homes with their violent winds, but did you know that they also have the potential to kill you in a way you would least expect?

Victims of the massive Joplin, Missouri, tornado are finding this out now along with the rest of the world. Days after the EF5 tornado devastated the town, people started getting sick and dying from a rare fungus. The CDC is now investigating how this fungus appeared and why it is killing already wounded victims of the tornado. To date, at least twelve people have been sickened with the fungus, and three people have died due to their injuries from the tornado and the fungus.

The rare fungus is called Mucormycosis. It’s aggressive and rare. It’s so uncommon that even the nation’s largest hospitals might see only one or two cases a year. According to the CDC, they have never seen a cluster as large as the group of sick people in Joplin.

The fungus can be found in dirt and wood. It appears the tornado, with winds over 200 mph, allowed the mold spores to become airborne. The victims either inhaled the mold spores or had the mold spores penetrate their wounds. The fungus can be treated with intravenous antibiotics, but most of the victims were seen at makeshift medical centers due to the destruction of the local hospital making detecting the fungus much more difficult.

The CDC will continue to investigate this fungus outbreak. Now that victims of the tornado have been made aware of the possible connection between the wounds and the mold spores, they will be quick to seek medical help.

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  • rufiedufie Jun 21, 2011

    how scary to be attacked twice by the same tornado