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Second US death reported in fungal meningitis outbreak linked with surgeries in Mexico

<i>Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images/FILE</i><br/>People cross the border at the Gateway International Bridge into Matamoros
Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images/FILE
People cross the border at the Gateway International Bridge into Matamoros

By Katherine Dillinger, CNN

(CNN) — A second death in the US has been attributed to a suspected fungal meningitis outbreak among people who had surgery under epidural anesthesia in Matamoros, Mexico, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Hundreds more people could be at risk, the agency warns.

The CDC and the Texas Department of State Health Services reported last week that five residents of that state had become ill, one fatally, after having surgery at the River Side Surgical Center or Clinica K-3 in Matamoros. The procedures all involved an epidural, an anesthetic injected into the area around the spinal column.

The Mexican Ministry of Health sent the CDC a list of 221 US patients who might be at risk based on a history of procedures at these clinics between January 1 and May 13, the US agency says, and three additional patients have been identified. As of Wednesday, the CDC says, there are two deaths, nine suspected cases of infection and nine probable cases.

The CDC urges anyone who had epidural anesthesia at either of those clinics during that time period to go to a health center, urgent care or emergency room as soon as possible to be tested for meningitis, even if they don’t have symptoms. People who test positive for infection will be given antifungal medicines; those who test negative will be asked to watch for symptoms and possibly to return after two weeks for further testing.

Fungal meningitis is not spread from person to person. Symptoms of meningitis can include fever, headache, stiff neck, vomiting, sensitivity to light and changes in mental status. They may take weeks to develop and be mild at first, but they can quickly become severe and life-threatening.

Health officials are urging prospective patients to cancel certain procedures in Matamoros while they investigate the outbreak.

Medical tourism, including in Mexico, has become more common people seek lower-cost procedures and shorter waits for care, particularly for dental care, surgery, cosmetic surgery, fertility treatments and other procedures.

In a travel advisory, the CDC notes that all medical procedures “carry some risk, and complications can occur regardless of where treatment is received.”

“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,” it says.

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