Fungal infection strikes Joplin tornado victims

Lamar, Mo., residents Aaron Finney, foreground, Kieran Hanley, right, and Trevor Hobbs, left, help Missouri State Rep. Mike Kelley (126th District) move a porch into a debris pile, June 8, 2011, in Joplin, Mo. AP Photo/The Joplin Globe, T. Rob Brown

JOPLIN, Mo. - An aggressive fungus is striking Joplin tornado victims, contributing to a handful of deaths.

Doctors told the Springfield News-Leader that at least nine survivors may have contracted blood-vessel invading zygomycosis infections.

Overall numbers weren't available. The Springfield-Greene County Health Department declined to release them, citing patient privacy concerns.

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Kendra Williams, of the health department, says the common fungus likely came from soil or vegetative materials imbedded in the skin by the tornado.

After the tornado, Freeman Health System in Joplin treated more than 1,700 patients. An infectious disease specialist there, Dr. Uwe Schmidt, says some wounds that were stitched up in that rush of patients had to be reopened because they weren't adequately cleaned and had debris in them.

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