Lethal Fungus Compounds Joplin Misery

Three fatalities linked so far to contaminated soil that got under skin
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 11, 2011 9:16 AM CDT
Joplin Tornado: Lethal Skin Fungus Compounds Misery, Linked to 3 Deaths
This May 29, 2011 file photo shows President Barack Obama with residents viewing damage from the tornado that devastated Joplin, Mo.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

As if recovering from the devastation of last month's tornado weren't enough, Joplin is facing a new threat: A fungal infection that has been linked in the deaths of at least three people. Murcomycosis is linked to fungal spores that live in the soil, usually inhaled; in Joplin's case, the spores have gotten under victims' skin. Experts say winds likely blew affected dirt into open wounds, causing what the Los Angeles Times calls a "white, fluffy mold."

A total of eight cases of the fungus have been observed, three of which were fatalities.
"I was surprised," says a local doctor. "The so-called subcutaneous form of the fungus is not very common. I have never seen it myself before, and to suddenly see this cluster was quite striking." Samples have been sent to the CDC for further study. (Read more fungus stories.)

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