The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning against traveling to a Mexican border town for certain procedures after some U.S. residents returned home with suspected fungal meningitis.
Five Texas residents were diagnosed with the infection after getting surgery in Matamoros, Mexico. One has died, and the other four are hospitalized, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The patients, ranging in age from 30s to 50s, all had a procedure that involved an epidural, which is an anesthetic injected around the spinal column.
The CDC and Texas DSHS say anyone who has had an epidural injection of an aesthetic in Matamoros this year should keep an eye on symptoms and consider seeking medical advice.
"It is very important that people who have recently had medical procedures in Mexico monitor themselves for symptoms of meningitis," said Dr. Jennifer Shuford, DSHS Commissioner. "Meningitis, especially when caused by bacteria or fungus, can be a life-threatening illness unless treated promptly."
Fungal infections can cause many different illnesses including meningitis, which is the swelling of the brain and spinal cord's protective covering.
The CDC says fungal meningitis can develop after a fungal infection is accidentally introduced during a procedure or spreads from somewhere else in the body.
Symptoms of fungal meningitis include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, confusion and sensitivity to light. The five patients' symptoms began three days to six weeks after their surgeries.
Though anyone can contract the illness, people with weakened immune systems, like those who have recently gotten surgical procedures, are at increased risk of infection. However, it's not contagious and can typically be treated with an IV or oral medication.
The Level 2 travel advisory alerts travelers to "practice enhanced precautions" amid the ongoing public health investigation. Health authorities in both the United States and Mexico are investigating the source of the infections, whether the cases are linked and whether there are more cases.
In the meantime, the CDC says people should cancel any procedures in Matamoros that involve an epidural until there is "evidence that there is no longer a risk for infection at these clinics."
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