The U.S. government issued an alert Tuesday after U.S. residents returning from Matamoros, Mexico, were diagnosed with suspected fungal meningitis infections. According to the health notice, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the infected travelers had undergone “medical or surgical procedures (including liposuction) that involved injection of an anesthetic into the area around the spinal column.”
Meningitis is a disease that causes inflammation of the tissues surrounding the brain and spinal cord, and it can be fatal if it does not receive immediate medical attention. Symptoms include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, confusion, or sensitivity to light.
The CDC has called on anyone who has had an epidural injection in Matamoros and is now experiencing symptoms to go “immediately” to a hospital emergency department. The notice does not state the number of victims, but does say that the infections have led to serious illness and death.
The CDC has recommended that U.S. citizens cancel any procedure in Matamoros that involves an epidural injection, “until there is evidence that there is no longer a risk for infection at these clinics.” The alert over the meningitis cases is marked Level 2 on the three-tiered system, indicating that travelers must “practice enhanced precautions.”
The warning comes just months after at least 26 people died in a meningitis outbreak in the Mexican state of Durango. In December, Mexico’s health commission Cofepris identified the presence of the fungus in four private hospitals in the state. Months earlier, in October, a woman had arrived at the Maternal and Child Hospital in the city of Durango with severe headaches. She had undergone a Cesarean section a month earlier and, unknowingly, was the first person infected in the outbreak, which killed at least 25 women and one man.
The city of Matamoros, in the border state of Tamaulipas, has also been in the news recently. In early March, four U.S. citizens were kidnapped in the city. The friends had driven down to Mexico, as one of the group had scheduled cosmetic surgery in Matamoros. But on the way to the clinic, they got lost and were taken by a group of armed men. A few days later, authorities found the Americans — two alive and two dead — in a wooden shed on the outskirts of Matamoros, near Playa Bagdad.
The case threatened to cause a major diplomatic conflict between Mexico and the United States. The kidnapping triggered widespread criticisms from the Republican Party. Members of the party’s most far-right wing even proposed a bill that would enable the U.S. military to deploy troops on Mexican territory and label cartels as terror organizations.
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