BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Two more people have died from fungal meningitis after having surgical procedures in Matamoros, the Mexican city across the border from Brownsville.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the death toll from the multinational meningitis outbreak is now four. As of Friday, there are 179 people under investigation for the infection, 14 suspected cases, 10 probable cases, and four confirmed cases.
According to the CDC, the outbreak is among people who traveled to Matamoros to have surgical procedures that required epidural anesthesia. Two clinics identified in the outbreak — River Side Surgical Center and Clinica K-3 — have since been closed.
However, anyone who underwent surgeries at these clinics this year may be at risk for the infection.
The CDC said it is working with the Mexican Ministry of Health and U.S. state and local health departments to identify U.S. patients who had procedures done at those clinics.
“CDC and state and local health departments are working to reach all people with potential exposures and advise them to go to their nearest emergency room for diagnostic testing for fungal meningitis,” the CDC website states.
Those who go to the hospital for testing should tell staff that they recently had epidural anesthesia at one of the two Mexico clinics. People will be tested with a spinal tap.
Symptoms include fever, headache, stiff neck, vomiting, light sensitivity and confusion. Symptoms may start as mild at first, and they could take weeks to develop. Mild symptoms may quickly turn severe or life-threatening, the CDC states.
Fungal meningitis cannot be transmitted from person to person and develops after a fungal infection is accidentally introduced during surgery. It then spreads to the brain or spinal cord.
The U.S. is warning people against traveling to Matamoros for any surgery that involves epidural anesthesia until the outbreak is clear.
A Level 2 travel warning has been issued by the CDC due to the outbreak. Level 2 calls for travelers to “Practice Enhanced Precautions.”
“All medical and surgical 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,” the CDC says. “Obtaining medical care immediately can lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment and a better outcome.”
According to the Associated Press, more than 200 people are at risk of fungal meningitis and at least five people from Texas were suspected of having it. At least one Texan has died from the outbreak.
The patients in Texas showed symptoms about three days to six weeks after their surgeries, the AP reported.