A woman has died and four others have been hospitalized after receiving liposuction and other cosmetic surgeries in Mexico.
The individuals, aged in their 30s and 50s, were diagnosed with fungal meningitis — swelling of the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord caused by a fungal infection.
They had all traveled from Texas to clinics in Matamoros, on the Mexican border, and developed the potentially fatal condition — that can cause seizures and a coma — three days to six weeks later.
Health officials in the US have raised the alarm over the cases, with the operations taking place between February and April, urging Americans to cancel medical procedures in Matamoros.
It is unclear what type of fungus the patients were infected with, but cases of C. Auris are rising in the US linked to hospitals not sterilizing equipment properly.
One woman has died and four others have been hospitalized after receiving cosmetic surgery including liposuction in Mexico. Health officials say the women received treatment at clinics in Matamoros, Mexico, including River Side Surgical Center (left) and Clinica K-3 (right)
The above map shows the location of Matamoros, where the procedures took place. People are being urged not to go there for medical procedures
Some 1.2million US residents travel to Mexico annually to undergo elective surgery at a discount, according to Medical Tourism Mexico, which advertises that patients can save up to 80% on a comparable procedure in the US
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Texas Department of Health issued the warning over the cases on Tuesday.
They said each patient had received an epidural, or when an anesthetic is injected into the area around the spinal cord to numb pain.
Clinics the women had visited included River Side Surgical Center, which offers liposuction and Brazilian Butt-lifts.
It was not clear at this stage whether the cases were linked or where the patients had become infected. Officials are monitoring for more cases.
Raising the alarm, the CDC urged anyone with a treatment booked in Matamoros that involved an epidural injection to cancel the procedure.
The agency added that those who got treatment there since January should watch for warning signs of meningitis.
Those with concerns were told to speak to their doctor.
Dr Jennifer Shuford, from the Texas Department of Health, said: ‘It is very important that people who have recently had medical procedures in Mexico monitor themselves for symptoms of meningitis.
‘Meningitis, especially when caused by bacteria or fungus, can be a life-threatening illness unless treated promptly.’
There is a booming medical tourism industry south of the US border, where procedures can be offered at a fraction of the cost of those in the US.
About a million Americans cross the border to get medical procedures every year, figures suggest.
Matamoros was also the site of the attack on four Americans in March that resulted in two deaths.
Meningitis is the swelling of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord due to an infection.
It can be caused by an infection in these areas by fungi, including Blastomyces, which has triggered an outbreak in Michigan, and Candida albicans, the fungus behind thrush.
Patients cannot spread the infection to others but may experience symptoms including fever, severe headaches, stiff neck and sensitivity to light.
Patients can progress into suffering seizures, fall into a coma and later die from the infection.
The women were diagnosed with fungal meningitis, or swelling of the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord due to a fungal infection
Treatment involves administering courses of antifungal medications, typically into the vein via an IV drip. They may be taking the drugs for six months to a year.
It comes after a victim of the fungus Valley Fever revealed his hell of fighting the disease for five years.
Business owner Nick Duggan, 45, is one of around 20,000 people who catch the illness – caused by fungi species Coccidioidomycosis – every year, which scientists warn is becoming more common as the climate warms.
The Australian native most likely caught the illness while quad biking in the San Diego desert in 2010, where he was visiting his wife’s family. He thinks he inhaled the fungus spores kicked up in the dust.
By the time doctors had figured out what it was, the infection had spread to his spine and brain and caused meningitis, which left him bedridden for four months and in and out of the hospital for five years.