A potential outbreak of fungal meningitis — an infection that causes inflammation near the brain and spinal cord — in Mexican medical clinics has killed two Americans and infected more than 200, prompting the United States and Mexico to request the WHO. To issue a public health emergency declaration.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that two Americans have died from suspected cases of fungal meningitis and at least 220 more people have become infected after an outbreak of infection in patients who underwent surgery in Matamoros, Mexico.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the outbreak was spread by epidural anesthesia (a procedure used to numb parts of the body by injecting an anesthetic close to the spinal cord) given to patients before surgery, and was linked to two clinics in the border city of Matamoros – Riverside Center Surgical and Clinica K-3 – which closed May 13.
- Dallas Smith, an epidemiologist at the CDC, said in a webinar Friday that of the 10 possible cases, 100% of patients underwent epidural liposuction, 40% a breast augmentation and 30% a Brazilian buttock lift.
- Smith also said that 205 of those detected were women and 16 were men. The average patient age was 32, 178 of whom were from Texas.
- The agency is urging anyone who underwent epidural anesthesia at one of these clinics between January 1 and May 13 to seek treatment immediately — according to Mexico’s Ministry of Health, about 547 people were operated on at those two clinics during that time.
- Since then, the CDC has placed Matamoros, Mexico on a Level 2 travel advisory, recommending that Americans take extra precautions, such as canceling any medical procedures involving epidural injections so there are no more risks.
- Authorities in the United States and Mexico have asked the World Health Organization to declare a public health emergency in response to the outbreak, to speed up funding, treatment and international cooperation.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. It can be caused by fungi, bacteria, viruses, amoebae, or parasites. There are six types of meningitis, more or less serious, and according to the World Health Organization, bacterial meningitis is the most worrisome. One in six people who develop bacterial meningitis will die from it, and one in five will develop serious complications.
Types of meningitis
- Fungal meningitis develops after a fungal infection spreads to the brain or spinal cord from another part of the body. It is usually treated with antifungal medication and people with weakened immune systems are at greater risk. The CDC recommends that people at risk avoid very dusty areas and activities, wear N95 masks, use an indoor air filtration system, and thoroughly clean skin wounds.
- Bacterial meningitis is a serious illness that can lead to death within hours. However, with proper care, most people recover — sometimes facing permanent disabilities, such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities. Infants, people with certain diseases, such as HIV or those without a spleen, and travelers to sub-Saharan Africa and Mecca are most at risk.
- Most people recover on their own, but anyone experiencing symptoms should see a doctor to rule out another form of meningitis. There is usually no specific treatment, and most people with mild cases recover within seven to ten days.
- Parasitic meningitis is caused by a parasitic infection and is less common than viral and bacterial meningitis. Infection usually occurs by eating an infected animal; Human-to-human transmission is rare. Certain parasites can cause a rare form of parasitic meningitis called eosinophilic meningitis. There is no specific treatment for this type of meningitis, but pain relievers can be given to reduce symptoms.
- Primary amebic meningoencephalitis is a rare and fatal brain infection caused by Naegleria fowleri, which is found in water sources such as tap water, soil, swimming pools, and water heaters. Only 154 cases of this infection were reported in the United States between 1962 and 2021 – only four people survived. Noninfectious meningitis is caused by medical conditions or situations and is not passed from person to person. Causes include cancers, lupus, certain medications, head trauma, and brain operations.
Symptoms of meningitis
According to the Mayo Clinic, it can take several weeks for symptoms to appear. Early symptoms of meningitis in people ages 2 years and older are similar to those of the flu and include fever, nausea or vomiting, severe headache, stiff neck, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite or thirst, seizures, difficulty walking, confusion or difficulty concentrating, and a rash. The symptômes sont legerement differences in their nourrissons: fièvre, pleurs constants, irritability or troubles du sommeil, vomissements, mauvaise alimentation, raid of the nuque or du corps, incapacité à se reveiller for manger and renflement of the zone molle located sur le dessus de Head. It is advised to consult a doctor in case of fever, neck stiffness, confusion, vomiting, or severe headache that does not go away.
Matamoros is a popular medical tourism destination, especially for American patients. A study published in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology found that Mexico was the most common destination chosen by Americans seeking medical tourism, accounting for 41% of all visits. The study also notes that dental care accounts for 55% of all treatments, although plastic surgery, cancer care, fertility treatments, and organ transplants are all popular among Americans seeking treatment abroad. Cost is usually the main reason for medical tourism – a 2020 study found that 92% of respondents cited the low cost in Mexico as a driving factor. However, the State Department advises against travel to the border state of Tamaulipas, where Matamoros is located, because of the rampant violence there: In March, four Americans traveling there for surgery were kidnapped by a suspected Mexican cartel, and two died.
Translated article from the American magazine Forbes – Author: Ariana Johnson
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