(Photo: Reuters / Sarah Conard)
A number of victims injured in the devastating Joplin tornado that hit Missouri in May have died after contracting a rare fungal infection, officials reported Friday.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at least eight are known to have been infected by the rare fungal infection, with at least three dying.
Jasper County Coroner Rob Chappel reported that one of the deaths was definitely caused by the fungal infection “mucormycosis.” However, the cause of the other two deaths has not yet been determined.
Chappel did explain that all three of those that have died so far also carried serious injuries from the tornado.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services told media that all eight patients had multiple injuries as well as secondary wound infections.
It is believed that the fungal infection is likely to have come about from dirt and vegetation becoming wedged in the victims’ wounds.
The type of infection affecting the Joplin victims is a particularly severe form of the fungal infection, and has been known to affect those carrying soft-tissue injuries.
The dirt or vegetation would infect the open wound and then progressively spread causing damage to flesh and tissue. Often the condition would require hospitalization, and treatment with antibiotics, and can even lead to the tissue having to be removed in a surgical procedure.
According to CNN, CDC researcher Dr. Benjamin Park urged all those in the tornado area who are suffering wounds that are not healing to seek immediate medical attention.
People have also been told not to worry about the infection being contagious as deep fungal infections such as this do not spread from human to human.
The death toll from the Joplin tornado now stands at 151.