Mucormycosis – (flesh eating fungus)

On March 15, 2005, one of our clients called to see if we had any advice on handling a case of flesh eating fungus. This was the first case the hospital and coroner had seen, and they were advised that the fungus was airborne. The coroner’s office offered to furnish the funeral home with special respirators. The body was double bagged when the funeral home arrived to pick up the remains.

I didn’t know anything about Mucormycosis at the time, and advised the funeral home to leave the body in the first call vehicle until the family decided on cremation or selected a sealer type casket. At that time, they could don the respirators that the coroner’s office loaned them, and place the remains in a cremation pack or casket. I should add that this call came in on my cellular phone while I was on the road.

Since then I have had an opportunity to research several articles on Mucormycosis. While it is true the infection originates from airborne contact. The contact is from spores that come from soil and plants. The spores do not originate from the tissue. This disease preys on people with weak immunity systems. Two high risk groups are AIDS patients and advanced diabetics.

My initial concern was that this would cause us to re-examine our respirator policy. Our current recommendation is that funeral homes that have monitored their formaldehyde level and are within OSHA’s Action Level, not own or stock respirators. In view of our findings, we will continue that policy.