Two Died from Fungal Brain Infection Linked to Cheap Plastic Surgery

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VIVA – Two Americans have died from suspected fungal infections in their brains and spinal cords after traveling to Mexico for cheap plastic surgery.

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A further 18 people in the US are suspected to have contracted the infection or called fungal meningitis after having surgical procedures, including liposuction, under epidural anesthesia in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is monitoring another 206 who have potentially been exposed, the agency stated on last May 24.

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Epidurals are often used in labor and delivery and other surgeries and involve injecting anesthetic directly into the spine - specifically into a space around spinal nerves called the epidural space.

At least two specific clinics have been linked to the fungal meningitis outbreak: River Side Surgical Center and Clinica K-3 are situated just across the border from Brownsville, Texas.

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The Mexican Ministry of Health shuttered both on May 13 and the CDC a list of 221 US patients who might be at risk for meningitis based on records of procedures at these clinics between January 1 and May 13, the United States agency said.

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Three more patients not included on the list were identified by the CDC, bringing the total of Americans known to have been exposed to 224 - the agency is working with health departments across different states to contact them.

It urged 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.

The CDC said that fungal meningitis infections are not contagious and are not transmitted person to person.

But it urged anyone who had booked a procedure involving an epidural injection of an anesthetic in Matamoros, Mexico, to cancel it "until there is evidence that there is no longer a risk for infection at these clinics".

The CDC first received word of the outbreak on May 8 after Texas state officials were notified of two female patients hospitalized in Texas with symptoms consistent with meningitis; headache, fever, photophobia, stiff neck  that began approximately two to four weeks after receiving cosmetic procedures at the River Side Surgical Center.

Two more Texan women hospitalised with similar symptoms after getting surgery at Clinica K-3.

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

The recent outbreak of fungal meningitis echoes an outbreak that began a year ago in Durango, a Mexican state directly west of Tamaulipas.

In that outbreak, epidural anesthesia was linked to at least 80 cases of fungal meningitis, 39 of which were fatal.

Nearly all of the cases were in women undergoing gynecological and obstetric procedures.

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