In the United States, two people have died of probable cases of fungal meningitis and more than 200 others are at risk after an outbreak of infection among patients operated on in Matamoros, Mexico, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday.
At least 220 people in the United States who were treated at two clinics in Matamoros this year may be at risk after undergoing epidural anesthesia, which is injected near the spine, the CDC said. Those at risk traveled from the United States to Mexican clinics for surgeries including liposuction, Brazilian butt lift and breast augmentation.
The CDC said on Friday, two people died and were classified as having probable cases of fungal meningitis. There were 11 more likely cases of infection, based on lumbar puncture results, and 14 suspected cases, based on symptoms consistent with meningitis, the CDC said.
Health authorities in the United States and Mexico have asked the World Health Organization to issue an emergency declaration in response to the outbreak.
The two clinics linked to the infections are River Side Surgical Center and Clinica K-3 in Matamoros, and both closed on May 13, the CDC said.
People who have had an epidural anesthetic these clinics should go to the nearest health center, urgent care facility, or emergency room as soon as possible to be tested for meningitis, even if they have no symptoms , health officials said.
It can take weeks for symptoms of meningitis to appear, and once they do appear, they can quickly become serious and life-threatening, the CDC said. Symptoms may include sensitivity to light, stiff neck, fever, vomiting, and confusion. Fungal meningitis infections are not contagious or transmitted from person to person.
The CDC said anyone who has scheduled an elective procedure involving an epidural injection of an anesthetic in Matamoros should cancel the surgery and related travel “until there is evidence that there is no more risk of infection in these clinics”.
According to the CDC, millions of people in the United States travel to another country each year for medical care, a practice known as medical tourism. The most common procedures people seek on these trips include dental work, surgery, cosmetic surgery, fertility treatments, organ and tissue transplantation, and cancer treatment.
The CDC said the Mexican Health Ministry provided it with a list of 221 U.S. residents who may be at risk for meningitis because they were listed as having had surgery at one of the two clinics this year.
Dallas Smith, a CDC epidemiologist, said in a webinar for scientists and medical providers on Friday that 205 of those exposed were female and 16 were male. The median age of the patients was 32 years old and 178 of them were from Texas.
Dr Smith said the outbreak was similar to an outbreak of fungal meningitis that began in November 2022 in Durango, Mexico, where more than 1,400 patients may have been exposed through contaminated epidural anesthesia. During this outbreak, 80 people were found to have meningitis and 39 of them died, he said.
“The epidemic we’re living through now is quite similar, and it has the capacity to have this high death rate and devastate families and communities,” Dr Smith said.
He said authorities in Mexico and the United States had submitted a public health emergency of international concern request to the WHO because the outbreak had exposed people in Mexico, the United States, Canada and Colombia.
This declaration aims to accelerate international collaboration, funding and development of treatments in response to a disease. The WHO declared Covid-19 an emergency in January 2020 and lifted the designation this month.
The CDC said it is working with the Mexican Ministry of Health and local health departments in 24 U.S. states and the District of Columbia to respond to the outbreak and to contact people who officials know have suffered. surgery in clinics.
CDC officials found that six of the 221 people potentially exposed to the infection had not had epidural anesthesia and are not considered at risk. The agency also found five other people who were not part of the original group of 221, meaning at least 220 people in the United States were potentially exposed.
Health officials are trying to determine which organism or organisms caused the outbreak and whether other clinics were involved.
Mexico’s health ministry said Thursday that about 547 people had surgery at the two clinics between Jan. 1 and May 13.