Rare, Aggressive Fungus Strikes Joplin Tornado Victims

JOPLIN, Mo. (KMOX/AP) – A Joplin doctor said Thursday his hospital treated five Joplin tornado victims for a rare, aggressive fungal infection sometimes found in survivors of other natural disasters.

Dr. Uwe Schmidt, an infectious disease specialist at Freeman Health System in Joplin, said three of those patients who contracted zygomycosis have since died, but he stopped short of blaming their deaths specifically on the infections.

“These people had multiple traumas, pneumonia, all kinds of problems,” Schmidt said. “It’s difficult to say how much the fungal infections contributed to their demise.”

Zygomycosis, now known as mucormycosis, is a fungal infection that spreads rapidly and can be caused by soil or vegetative material becoming embedded under the skin. It’s more prevalent in people with weakened immune systems or untreated diabetes but can affect healthy people who suffer trauma and are injected with contaminated soil.

Dr. Benjamin Park with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people who have had a traumatic skin injury that is not improving should seek medical attention immediately so the infection can be identified and treated promptly.

Here is a portion of the memo from health care authorities:

“Dear Greene County Medical Providers,

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.”

“These fungal infections are usually quite serious, and often have a case-fatality rate of 50 percent or higher,” Park said in an email to The Associated Press. “Although persons with weakened immune systems and those with diabetes are the most common risk groups, otherwise healthy people can develop infection, particularly after a traumatic wound. Skin infection usually occurs following traumatic inoculation of the fungal spores into the skin.”

Schmidt said he had seen only two cases of zygomycosis in his 30 years of practice, and both of those cases involved people with untreated diabetes.

“I never have seen personally this kind of fungal infection of the skin,” he said.

Stacy Fender, a spokeswoman for CoxHealth, said Cox South hospital in Springfield has one patient who may have a fungal infection. Overall numbers weren’t available. The health department in Springfield-Greene County, where some patients were treated, declined to release information about patients sickened by the fungus, citing patient privacy concerns.

The Springfield News-Leader reported the department sent a memo Monday to area health providers warning them to be on the lookout for the infections.

Kendra Williams, the administrator of community health and epidemiology for the health department, said the fungus likely came from soil or vegetative materials imbedded in the skin by the tornado.

In the aftermath of the tornado, Freeman Health System treated more than 1,700 patients. Doctors from St. John’s Hospital, which was hit by the twister, treated patients at makeshift facilities. Schmidt said some wounds that were stitched up had to be reopened because they weren’t adequately cleaned.

“These were very extensive wounds,” Schmidt said. “They were treated in the emergency room as quickly as possible.”

A week after the tornado patients began arriving with fungal infections.

“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.”

Schmidt said the infection is sometimes seen in survivors of mass trauma such as the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia.

“This fungus invades the underlying tissue and actually invades the underlying blood vessels and cuts off the circulation to the skin,” Schmidt said. “It’s very invasive.”

Related Content:
PHOTOS: Joplin Two Weeks Later
PHOTOS: Cardinals, Royals Unite For Joplin

Copyright 2011 by KMOX/The Associated Press

  • CS

    These people need to get some OIL OF OREGANO. ITS GOOD TO INGEST AND ON THE SKIN

  • Patriot

    Whether or not this is poster is real or not, the wrath of God “card” as you call it is a warning of God’s judgment, not man’s judgment. You are correct that the Bible states we should not judge each other as none of us are qualified. However, God will judge all of us one day and Revelations speaks to that fact.

    • solo_poke

      The bible, bits and pieces of convenient text stuck together to control people.

      Enjoy your book I don’t care about your misguided views, propagandized by hypocrites and liars.

      • Patriot


        Care to provide any examples or evidence for your statements? You do not want to be seen as spreading propaganda!

      • Mad Max

        No… You just subscribe to the “misguided views, propagandized by hypocrites and liars” of the liberal persuasion?

      • Jen

        I feel the same about your Church of Liberalism.

  • cold warrior

    if one does not care for the “wrath of God” scenario, there are others… 1) Stuff happens 2) You reap what you sow 3) wrong place one time… ad nasuem!!

    The article is about a fungal infection that seems to affect survivors of these types of tragedies… there is something to be learned from this, mainly that healthcare workers, and responders, need to thouroughly cleanse these wounds before stitching them, and the wounded need to be closely montitored and educated about this fungal infection. Oil of Oregano, and hypothesising as to the cause of the tragedy show that a) ya didnt read the article b) your an idiot and there is no help for you…. get the picture?

    • cold warrior

      thats wrong place wrong time, b4 some idiot hops on that instead of the thrust of the comment.

    • Sad

      I do hope that the two people surviving the infection are doing better.

      @cold warrior

      While you are correcting your own post you can add these (just some of my favorites in your post):

      “ad nasuem” should be “ad nauseam”
      “thouroughly” should be “thoroughly”
      “hypothesising” should be “hypothesizing”
      “montitored” should be “monitored”
      “ya didnt” should be “you didn’t”

      Also, while you are calling people idiots, you should at least do it right!
      “your an idiot” should be “you are an idiot” or “you’re an idiot”

      In addition, we can consider your hypocrisy in starting your post providing possible causes to the tragedy then calling people idiots for “hypothesizing as to the cause of the tragedy”.

      That being said, I do agree with the point regarding extra education, I can surely use it and so can you!

      • Pam

        Ha ha…….

    • was blind

      Cold warrior–wow, you sound like a real expert. It so happens oil of oregano is one of the best treatment for fungal infections.
      And yes, what we are seeing around the country and around the world are warnings from God that He about to pour out His wrath on the world because people have turned away from obeying His laws.

      • mike

        It so happens oil of oregano is one of the best treatment for fungal infections.

        *Citation Needed.

        I have only seen one study that says it kinda works, but nothing to say it is more effective than any other medicine.

      • Crowner

        So is tea tree oil;. Beware Space Ghosst? No thanks.

  • Paige Szajnuk

    @ Soul Leister
    Please don’t lump all Christians together. Not all of us are judgmental. “Palin rules” is seriously misguided and deceived and I, personally, do not agree with what he/she posted. I am a Christian and I am leaving this evening, with a group from my church, to travel to Joplin to help the people there all day tomorrow. We want to do what we can for them in Christ’s name. We are not all hypocrites.

  • Common Sense

    you can always tell when the “Drudge Rport” links to an article ….
    the comments section is full of political garbage that has nothing to do with article.

  • hlangerhans

    If zygomycosis is now known as mucormycosis why do you keep calling it zygomycosis? I’m a doctor and had no idea what you were talking about until you used the term mucormycosis. Dopes.

  • Damon

    For those of you who love to quote the Bible, learn how to use it first!! The often quoted reference to NOT judge others is found in Matthew 7:1. I bet most of you didn’t know that. It reads, “Judge not, lest ye be judged” (KJV). This was Jesus speaking.

    Now, I bet most of you didn’t know Jesus also said, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24, KJV). Clearly, Jesus gives his disciples the right to judge and even expects it, but it must be righteous judgement!! Judging what happened to the people in Joplin, MO as being God’s wrath is NOT righteous judgment.

    For you anti-Christian zealots to say a Christian CAN’T judge ever, kindly keep your mouth in park until you know what the Bible actually says!!

    No, God did NOT cause the calamity that struck Joplin, Mo.

    • Jeffrey Hall-Cottrell

      Oh wise Damon…You really need a lesson in the bible….The silly stupid book that was written years and years after it was spoken…And I know no one was actually quoting Jesus since the new testament was written hundreds of years after he died…

  • Damon

    Posting again.

    For those of you who love to quote the Bible, learn how to use it first!! The often quoted reference to NOT judge others is found in Matthew 7:1. I bet most of you didn’t know that. It reads, “Judge not, lest ye be judged” (KJV). This was Jesus speaking.

    Now, I bet most of you didn’t know Jesus also said, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24, KJV). Clearly, Jesus gives his disciples the right to judge and even expects it, but it must be righteous judgement!! Judging what happened to the people in Joplin, MO as being God’s wrath is NOT righteous judgment.

    For you anti-Christian zealots to say a Christian CAN’T judge ever, kindly keep your mouth in park until you know what the Bible actually says!!

    No, God did NOT cause the calamity that struck Joplin, Mo.

    • Patriot

      Well said!

  • gora

    What an idiotic response

  • solo_poke

    Somebody has been drinking the same crazy koolaid as Palin I see.

    • Jen

      More like Liberal troll.


    tell that to Lot’s wife.

    • Mad Max

      @Dumb REALity

      Duh… Lot’s wife happened in the “OLD TESTAMENT…!!!” Good Lord, how stupid can these people get…?!?!

  • Huh?

    “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

    Be very careful about stereotyping demographics and then pronouncing judgement on others. Neither you nor I have any authority to do so. Furthermore, you say you’re moral. Even Jesus Himself said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” All, including me, have sinned and if you truly believe what you read in your Bible you should shudder and be humbled that your sin has been atoned for.

    Your thinly veiled elitism disgraces Christians and conservatives alike. Who says all conservatives like Palin? That’s a media lie. Personally, I abhor nearly all of the candidates, especially those clinging strongly to either of the two parties.

    ..besides… it’s an article on fungal infections. Sheesh.

    • skeptic17

      Good job, stay on target folks….

  • UVC Option

    TO KILL THE FUNGAL INFECTION, use direct exposure to UVC.


    UVC does carry potential side effects, as it shreds ALL DNA for about 2mm into the skin, but it will probably kill the FUNGI too.

    Worst case, the patient will get a bad sunburn from the treatment, and possibly have a higher risk of skin cancer in the future, but that is better than dying quickly from the skin-fungi infection. UVC has been used EXPERIMENTALLY on difficult to heal wounds and skin infections with mixed results.

    Lasers operating in the germicidal range are in use today in dentistry (used for curing resins on teeth), and may be of some use for intense spot-treatments in an emergency.

    Calculate duration and W/cm2 carefully.

    Good Luck.

    • Peet

      The problem with UVC is that these fungal infections are UNDER the skin and becoming systemic. People who had wounds closed after the tornado had this stuff incubating under their skin for weeks. Nasty! IV fungicide is probably the only thing that will work.

      One poster recommended oil of oregano. That may be great for you new agey types or the “worried well” but don’t use new age “medicine” when it’s a matter of life and death. Or you will die!

  • Thunder

    Palin belongs to a church of Zion. She is a Zionist. Look at all those pictures of her wearing that pentagram around her neck.
    Palin is not a new testament Christian. She is a money grubbing traitor. Jesus needs to turn her tables over if she doesn’t stop her blood lust of killing middle easterners.
    A fungal infection is not an indictment from God. These are just poor unfortunate souls who deserve pity. The kind that was given to the Katrina flood. Funny how these people have been barely noticed. Just like any disaster that has afflicted a certain demographic is barely noticed. Why is that? Where was the Prez?


    I agree this poser is a troll just trying to make conservative look bad…we see through your game, you are nothing but i die hard Democrat on a mission

    • Dannyboy


  • disgusted

    It’s deeply disturbing that ANYONE would read this article and turn it into a religious or political issue! How about saying “wow- let’s pray for those affected by this medical problem”. As for the pre-hospital treatment of cleansing wounds…in a disaster, EMS is trained to save lives…the “field” in not a sterile environment and cleansing wounds doesn’t take priority over making sure the patient is breathing! I’m very proud of the EMS personnel and the job they did during this tragedy!

    • yoaposer

      @disgusted: I agree…it is unbelievable that nation dividing trolls originally turned this into a political and religious forum but understandably it is natural for others to defend accusations. The comments should be like yours because that is what the article is about…I can only hope that the people of Joplin and the heroes that helped, remain healthy.

  • Jill Craft

    I don’t personally believe in the Rapture or 2012 but, hurricanes, tornados and flooding are still very real threats. At this very moment, people around the world are faced with life threatening and life changing events. For them, it is the end of the world, no matter how local or personal it may be.

    People should prepare for the worst by storing food for up to a year or more, putting together bug out bags to keep by the door and have a plan worked out ahead of time:


    You can’t count on the goverment to help you.

  • Jen

    Well stated, Mike.

  • http://adeliemanchot.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/daily-dive-10-june-11/ Daily Dive 10 June 11 | adeliemanchot

    […] Rare, Aggressive Fungus Strikes Joplin Tornado Victims […]

  • kendrick1

    Each morning when we awaken we have to start making choices–whether to get up or stay in bed; whether to bathe or not; whether to eat or not, whether to smoke a cigarette or not; whether to pop a pill or not. We have to live with the choices we make. We have a choice as to whether to accept Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, or not. If you choose to accept Him, redemption comes with that acceptance and you share in what he has to offer. If you choose not to accept him you don’t share what he has to offer. It’s based on the choice one makes.

    It’s a bitter-sweet taste to read some of the comments made about God. Bitter, because it indicates the commenters haven’t accepted Him. Sweet, because it gives an indication that the commenters are under some sort of conviction or they wouldn’t make the comments they do.

    In the daily neswpapers I see the section on horoscopes. I don’t believe in those but it doesn’t infuriate me to see them! I don’t try to get the paper to cease publishing horoscopes! I don’t quit taking the paper because the horoscopes are in it!

    Some out there give just about their all over some sports team e.g. Packers, Colts, Redskins. I don’t care much for sports but it doesn’t make me want to encourage doing away with sports. Islamists bow down and pray several times daily. That is not my religion but I don’t try to do away with it.

    Being under conviction seems to be the only logical answer for the attitude that some have when they foam at the mouth against a God they say does not exist!!

  • Mad Max

    How did this post get from talking about a killer fungus to Christian bashing…? Seems like liberals really have an issue with keeping things in context. Must be that fabulous public education system they keep talking about. You know, the one where teachers are more sacred than the children’s reading levels and the economics of the communities.


    • Jeffrey Hall-Cottrell

      Because as normal the Christians have made this about them…And how this silly being God is doing this…That’s how it went from an article about fungus to what you call Christian bashing…I call it just spreading the real truth…..

  • stacie


  • Charles Chancellor

    What sort of whacko “real Christian” are you??? You have no idea of what Christianity is you cultist. Belief in the new testament does not in any way shape or form equate to disbelief in the old testament. If it did, really, really basic concepts that aren’t quite covered in the new testament wouldn’t be real then would they??? Please tell everyone where things like creation, divinity, absolute love and belief and the like come from??? Since religious education happens to be my ministry I’d like to know so that I’m not fooling anyone.

  • E.A. Thompson

    Their immoral ways are causing god to become angry and pour out his plagues on the rest of us moral, god loving patriots.

    One way plagues come to this country is with the people that come to this country….. The immigration Exodus to the U.S. They are voters to politicians and fighters to the Arms Forces and worshipers to religions… but they do bring with them unattend health problems and Pestilence such as drugs and trafficking of all kinds…

  • LR

    You people should be ashamed of yourselves, having a religious and, even more disgustingly, a POLITICAL arguement while these people suffer.

    To the people of Joplin, I wish you the best. I have complete faith in you all, that you will rebuild your lives, stronger then before.

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