Five Texas residents became ill with suspected cases of fungal meningitis after traveling to Matamoros, Mexico, for surgery, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. One person died, and four others are hospitalized.
In a travel advisory, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged patients to cancel certain procedures in Matamoros, Mexico. Health officials are investigating whether the cases are linked and whether there are more infections.
The CDC said in an advisory posted Wednesday to its Health Alert Network that it’s unclear what organism is behind the outbreak, but a fungus is suspected because of biomarkers in at least one of the patients’ cerebrospinal fluid.
The procedures all involved an epidural, an anesthetic injected into the area around the spinal column. The patients ranged in age from their 30s to their 50s, and symptoms began three days to six weeks after their procedures.
Patients should tell their doctor about the risk of fungal infection if they had an epidural in Matamoros in 2023, DSHS and CDC said, and should seek care if they develop meningitis symptoms such as fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, confusion or sensitivity to light. Fungal infections are not contagious and cannot spread from person to person.
“It is very important that people who have recently had medical procedures in Mexico monitor themselves for symptoms of meningitis,” DSHS Commissioner Dr. Jennifer Shuford said. “Meningitis, especially when caused by bacteria or fungus, can be a life-threatening illness unless treated promptly.”
Medical tourism, including in 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.
Get CNN Health's weekly newsletter
Sign up here to get The Results Are In with Dr. Sanjay Gupta every Tuesday from the CNN Health team.
In its 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,” the agency says.