They survived the tornado but not the fungus it left behind.
Health officials in Joplin attribute three or four deaths to zygomycosis, a rapidly spreading and often fatal fungal infection. "It's difficult to say if it killed them, but it definitely was a contributing factor," Dr. Uwe Schmidt tells the Springfield News-Leader. Schmidt, an infectious disease specialist, says he has treated five patients and knew of four cases that had been found at another hospital.
A health department official says the fungus was likely distributed by soil or vegetative materials grafted to the skin by the force of the May 22 tornado. Schmidt said he saw mold in the wounds he treated.
Schmidt amputated the arm of one patient in an effort to the halt the infection. She later died.
Fungal infections often accompany natural disasters. Infectious disease specialists warned survivors of the 2005 Asian tsunami about the risks.