Urgent warning after two Americans die from fungal brain infection linked to cheap plastic surgeries in Mexico
TWO AMERICANS have died of suspected fungal infections in their brain and spinal cord after traveling to Mexico for cheap cosmetic surgery.
Another 18 people in the US are suspected of contracting a condition called fungal meningitis after undergoing surgery, including liposuction, under epidural anesthesia in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico.
And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is monitoring another 206 who may have been exposed, the agency said in a statement May 24 update released.
Commonly used during labor, delivery, and other surgeries, epidural anesthesia involves injecting an anesthetic directly into the spine—specifically, into a space around the spinal nerves called the epidural space.
At least two specific clinics have been linked to the fungal meningitis outbreak: The River Side Surgical Center and Clinica K-3, located just across the Brownsville, Texas border.
Mexico’s Health Ministry and the CDC on May 13 closed a list of 221 US patients who may be at risk for meningitis based on records of procedures at those clinics between January 1 and May 13, the said US agency with.
Three additional patients not on the list have been identified by the CDC, bringing the total number of Americans known to have been exposed to the disease to 224 — the agency is working with state health officials to contact them.
It urged anyone who had an epidural at one of those clinics during that time period to go to a health center, emergency room, or emergency department as soon as possible to get tested for meningitis, even if they don’t have symptoms.
Antifungal drugs are given to people who test positive for an infection; Those who test negative are being asked to watch for symptoms and possibly come back in two weeks for further testing.
The CDC determined that fungal meningitis infections are not contagious and do not spread from person to person
But it urged anyone who booked a procedure in Matamoros, Mexico, that involved an epidural injection of an anesthetic to cancel it “until there is evidence these clinics are no longer at risk of infection.”
The CDC first became aware of the outbreak on May 8 after Texas state officials were notified of two patients hospitalized in Texas with symptoms of meningitis — headache, fever, photophobia, neck stiffness — who are about two to four weeks after cosmetic procedures occurred at the River Side Surgical Center.
Two other Texas women were hospitalized with similar symptoms after undergoing surgery at Clinica K-3.
Medical tourism to Mexico is increasing as people seek cheaper procedures and shorter wait times for treatment, especially for dental, surgery, cosmetic, fertility and other procedures, it said CNN Health.
The recent outbreak of fungal meningitis is reminiscent of an outbreak that began a year ago in Durango, a Mexican state just west of Tamaulipas.
In this outbreak, epidural anesthesia was associated with at least 80 cases of fungal meningitis, 39 of which were fatal.
Almost all cases involved women undergoing gynecological and obstetric procedures.
Laboratory tests linked the meningitis cases to a specific fungal pathogen: Fusarium solani, but health officials have yet to link a specific pathogen to this latest outbreak in Matamoros.
Fusarium fungi occur naturally in the environment (organic matter, soil and water) and are known to contaminate improperly manufactured pharmaceutical products. Ars Technica reported.
A rare bacterial infection linked to contaminated eye drops also claimed the lives of four Americans this year.
Symptoms of fungal mengitis
Symptoms of fungal meningitis can take weeks to develop, and they can be very mild or absent at first.
- stiff neck
- nausea and vomiting
- Eyes are more sensitive to light (photophobia)
- Altered mental status, confusion
According to the CDC, fungal meningitis can develop when a fungal infection is accidentally introduced during a medical or surgical procedure, or spreads to the brain or spinal cord from elsewhere in the body.
Although anyone can get fungal meningitis, those with compromised immune systems are at increased risk. Certain health conditions, medications, and surgical procedures can weaken the immune system.
Fungal meningitis is treated with oral medications and medications injected through a vein. The duration of treatment may vary depending on the type of fungus.