ARS TECHNICA – At least five people in Texas have been hospitalized with suspected fungal infections in their brains and spinal cords that developed after traveling to Mexico for cosmetic surgeries involving epidural anesthesia, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned this week.
One of the Texans has died and the other four remain hospitalized in the state, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported this week.
All five patients traveled from Texas to Matamoros, Mexico—across the border from Brownsville, Texas—where they had cosmetic surgeries, including liposuction, in at least two clinics: River Side Surgical Center and Clinica K-3.
State and federal health officials are investigating the outbreak, which could identify additional cases and clinics. According to local media in Mexico, both clinics have been shuttered by health officials.
In a health alert Wednesday and a separate travel alert, the CDC advised US health care providers and patients who have had procedures done in Matamoros to be on the lookout for fungal meningitis symptoms.
The CDC’s travel alert also advised Americans to cancel any procedures scheduled in Matamoros that involve an epidural injection of an anesthetic.
Although the current outbreak seems centered in Matamoros, which lies in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, it echoes an outbreak that began a year ago in Durango, a northern state directly west of Tamaulipas.
In that outbreak, epidural anesthesia was linked to at least 80 cases of fungal meningitis, of which 39 were fatal. Nearly all of the cases were in women undergoing gynecological-obstetric procedures.
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.
Health officials in Durango first reported cases to the PAHO/WHO (Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization) in November of last year, when they identified a cluster of just 11 cases, including one death. By early December, the case count ballooned to 71, with 23 deaths …