The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that a second death in the US was caused by a suspected outbreak of fungal meningitis among patients who underwent surgery in Mexico using epidural anesthesia. The agency warns that hundreds more people may be at risk.
Last week, the CDC and Texas Department of State Health Services announced that five residents of the state, including one who died, had developed illnesses after undergoing surgery at River Side Surgical Center in Matamoros or Clinica K-3. All of the procedures involved an epidural injection, which is an anesthetic that is injected around the spinal cord.
According to the US agency, the Mexican Ministry of Health has sent the CDC a listing of 221 US Patients who may be at Risk based on a History of Procedures at these Clinics between January 1, 2013 and May 13, and an additional three patients have also been identified. The CDC reports that as of Wednesday there were two deaths, nine cases of suspected infection, and nine probable cases.
Even if you don't feel any symptoms, the CDC recommends that anyone who has had epidural surgery at one of these clinics in this time frame go to a hospital, urgent care center or emergency room to get tested for meningitis. Those who test positive will receive antifungal medications; those who test negatively will be asked for more testing after two weeks.
The fungus that causes meningitis cannot be spread from one person to another. Meningitis symptoms include fever, headaches, stiff necks, nausea, light sensitivity, and mental changes. The symptoms may be mild and take several weeks to appear, but can quickly turn severe.
While they investigate the outbreak, health officials have urged prospective patients in Matamoros to cancel certain procedures.
Medical tourism in Mexico has grown as people look for lower-cost procedures, shorter waiting times, and more convenient care. This is especially true for dental care, cosmetic surgery and fertility treatments.
The CDC warns that medical procedures are not without risk and can be complicated no matter where they are performed.
It says: 'If traveling to another country is necessary for a medical procedure, seek immediate medical attention if complications occur during your travel or when you return home.