Swedes catch deadly tsunami fungus

Swedish survivors of the tsunami disaster in Asia are facing another danger, according to this week's papers. At least four people who were struck by the massive waves in Thailand on Boxing Day have returned home with a potentially deadly fungal infection.

The Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control is warning of the symptoms and urging people to be observant.

The source appears to be fungi that usually assist in breaking down biological material. But the huge amounts of water stirred up during the tsunami brought these bacteria into human contact.

The fungus can cause infections in open wounds, as seems to have happened with the four Swedes, and can get into lungs and sinus cavities. The Institute cautioned in a press release: “Certain types of fungi in the lungs or sinuses can lead to complicated infections that can be life-threatening.”

The microorganisms seldom cause a problem in the Nordic countries, though they do exist here. The Institute’s Victor Fernandez said the bacteria only tend to cause serious problems when ingested in high quantities. And in that case, treatment is vital.

“If it is untreated, more than 50 percent of infected people die. Early treatment is essential, otherwise it’s hard to cure,” said Fernandez.

The infections are not contagious, and Fernandez says if no symptoms have shown up at this point, then a person is probably not infected.

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, Aftonbladet