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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Five deaths from Joplin tornado linked to fungal infection

Injuries sustained from wood splinters or other materials triggered a rare fungal infection that may have contributed to the deaths of five people in the May 22 tornado in Joplin, Mo., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined.

In all, 13 people contracted the mucormycetes-born illness, the CDC said in a report released Friday. The CDC said it has seen multiple fungal infections of that type after other natural disasters such as hurricanes but never after a tornado.

The May 22 twister killed 160 people in Joplin and destroyed about 30 percent of the city. Jasper County Coroner Rob Chappel and physicians had reported the fungal infections, but the CDC is the first official confirmation of the numbers of victims.

"It's about what we expected," Chappel said Saturday. He said he was glad to learn from the report that none of the fungal infection victims sustained their injuries while cleaning up debris.

Chappel said he is curious whether any investigation finds something unusual about debris in Joplin that caused the infections. The CDC said the fungi in question is typically found in soil, decaying wood or other organic matter. (more)