Fungal Outbreak Linked to Cosmetic Surgery Sparks Warning from United States and Mexico

Mexican authorities have closed one of two clinics linked to a fungal outbreak that has prompted the US and Mexican authorities to call for a public health emergency to be declared. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that two people who underwent surgery with an epidural died of meningitis. About 400 people are under surveillance in the US and Mexico. Two beauty clinics in Matamoros, Mexico have closed. US and Mexican health authorities have urged anyone who had surgery involving an epidural since January to get tested, even if they have no symptoms.

The CDC has already identified 25 people in the United States with “probable” or “probable” fungal meningitis. Many US citizens travel to Mexico for cosmetic surgeries such as liposuction, breast augmentation, and Brazilian hip lifts, all of which require injections of anesthetic into the area around the spine. CDC’s Dallas Smith said the drugs used during the anesthesia in this outbreak could have been contaminated with the epidural itself or other drugs such as morphine used during surgery.

“There is currently a shortage in Mexico, and there may be a black market where medicines may have been contaminated,” Smith said. Last October, a batch of local anesthetic commonly used for surgeries such as caesarean sections was found to have been contaminated. The most common initial symptom of fungal meningitis is headache, followed by fever, vomiting, neck pain, and blurred vision. Fungal meningitis is not contagious and can be treated with antifungal drugs, but it can be rapidly life-threatening once symptoms begin.

Americans often travel to Mexico for low-cost medical services. WHO declares a public health emergency when a disease spreads between countries and requires a coordinated international response to control it.

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