Skin-Eating Fungus Kills Joplin Tornado Victims

Friday, June 10th 2011, 10:47 pm
By: News 9

Havonnah Johnson, News 9

JOPLIN, Missouri -- Cleanup after a tornado could costs some Joplin tornado victims their lives. A rare skin-eating fungus called Zygomygosis claimed three lives and made five other people sick, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

The organisms take root in the sinuses, then spread to the lungs and throughout the body. It typically strikes people with weakened immune systems, such as those with cancer or diabetes, or who are on immune-suppressing medications because they have had organ transplants.

It's an infection that can happen when dirt, vegetation or other material becomes lodged under the skin.

Are Oklahomans at risk? According to the Health Department, the soil in Oklahoma is different than what is in Joplin.

News 9 medical expert, Dr. Mary Ann Bauman says this type of infection is only damaging to people who already have severely compromised immune systems. She recommends people stay current on all vaccinations, namely their tetanus shots and take regular precautions.

The Oklahoma Department of Health hasn't received reports of any outbreaks in Oklahoma, but the funguses are not required to be reported.