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Tornado Week: Deadly tornado fungus


Following last year’s deadly tornado that ripped through Joplin, Missouri, a strange fungus was found growing in the wounds of some of the injured.

There were 13 confirmed cases of what the CDC referred to as a “fatal fungal soft-tissue infection.”

In two cases, it was just that, deadly.

While rare, experts said it could happen after any tornado or natural disaster.

Dr. Douglas Drevets, Chief of Infectious Diseases at OU College of Medicine, said, “It looks like bread mold growing in your muscle.”

A potentially fatal fungus found growing in the wounds of the injured.

Drevets said, “Really, the way you avoid this is the same way you avoid a tornado. “

The problem comes in all of the debris thrown about by the storm, specifically rotting tree branches, two-by-fours or any type of wood splinter.

Drevets said, “It’s really something that has to be slammed in to your body.”

It impacts the soft tissue and basically implants a fungus directly into your body’s soft tissue following blunt-force trauma.

It’s an injury type common among tornado victims.

Following the May 3, 1999 tornado, numerous people were rushed to area hospitals suffering the type of trauma that could lead to a fatal fungal infection.

Fortunately, there were no confirmed cases after that tragic event.

However, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen here.

Laurence Burnsed, with the Oklahoma State Department of Health, said, “We don’t know how common or uncommon it is in Oklahoma or the country.”

In fact, it’s not only found after a natural disaster but after any tramatic event where an object is forced into your body.

Drevets said, “These are folks who really sustained massive damage to their skin and muscle tissue.”

While health officials here do not keep records of fatal fungal soft tissue infections, it could still be found in the aftermath of Mother Nature’s furry.

Drevets said, “You take all the precautions you would in a tornado to try to avoid flying sticks, branches and damage.”

Experts say those with diabetes or who are undergoing cancer treatments are most at risk for the infection.

Most of the injuries that could lead to the infection would likely cause hospitalization.

However, doctors said you should have any wound treated if you start to notice it changing colors, especially if it turns black.


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