• The patients all underwent procedures involving epidural in Matamoros, Mexico
  • Exactly which organism is behind the illnesses remains unclear
  • Others who had such procedures in Matamoros should monitor themselves for symptoms

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an advisory this week about an outbreak of suspected fungal meningitis among U.S. residents who traveled to Mexico for certain procedures. Five people have fallen ill, and one of them has been reported dead.

The CDC, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and the Cameron County Health Department learned on May 8 about two female patients in Texas who were presenting with symptoms of meningitis, the CDC noted in its health advisory Wednesday.

Meningitis is the swelling of the meninges — the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. The illnesses reportedly began two to four weeks after the patients underwent cosmetic procedures at the River Side Surgical Center in Matamoros, Mexico.

Investigations have so far identified "at least five" patients, all of whom traveled from Texas to Matamoros and got surgical procedures that involved an epidural, according to the Texas DSHS. All of the identified patients had to be hospitalized. One has died.

The procedures were done in various clinics in Matamoros, Mexico, including the aforementioned clinic as well as Clinica K-3, though the CDC noted that other clinics might still be identified. The exact causative agent for the outbreak is still unknown, but it's suspected to have a fungal origin because of the biomarkers identified in some of the patients.

Fungal meningitis, the CDC clarified, is not contagious. Instead, it can develop after a fungal infection is introduced to the body and then spreads to the brain or spinal cord.

Under the circumstances, health authorities are urging people who are planning to have a procedure in Matamoros, Mexico that involves an epidural injection to cancel it until the risk has gone. Meanwhile, those who have already had such a procedure at any time in 2023 are being advised to monitor themselves for symptoms of meningitis.

These may include signs like fever, headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light and confusion. Those who have undergone a procedure in Matamoros since January 2023 who develop these symptoms should go to the emergency department "immediately" and inform them of the procedure, including where it was done, the CDC said.

"Meningitis, especially when caused by bacteria or fungus, can be a life-threatening illness unless treated promptly," DSHS Commissioner Jennifer Shuford said in the agency's release.

Health authorities are also advising clinics and health care providers to be aware of the outbreak. The U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Mexico has also issued an alert, noting that the risk to the general public is "low."

Millions of Americans reportedly travel to other countries to get medical procedures done each year to save money or to undergo procedures that are not approved in the U.S.

Those who are planning to participate in medical tourism are being advised to take extra precautions such as thoroughly researching the provider and the facility and having a pre-travel consultation with your healthcare provider.

"All medical and surgical procedures carry some risk, and complications can occur regardless of where treatment is received," the CDC noted. "If you travel to another country for a procedure, do not delay seeking medical care if you suspect any complication during travel or after returning home. Obtaining medical care immediately can lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment and a better outcome."

Representation. Hospital bed. Pixabay