Epidural Anesthesia in Mexico Linked to Seven Deaths

The CDC warns that anyone who had epidural anesthesia performed at two clinics in Matamoros, Mexico, from January to May 2023, should seek immediate testing for fungal meningitis.

According to an updated CDC health alert, Mexican and United States health officials are continuing to investigate a multinational fungal meningitis outbreak among individuals who received epidural anesthesia at River Side Surgical Center or Clinica K-3 in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico.

On May 8, two people in Texas were hospitalized with fungal meningitis after having cosmetic procedures under epidural anesthesia at River Side Surgical Center. Since then, health officials have identified more cases across multiple states.

After learning of the outbreak, the Mexican Ministry of Health gave the CDC a list of people who had epidural anesthesia procedures from January to May. The CDC and state and local health departments are attempting to reach out to those individuals.

However, the agency says they have not been able to contact some people at risk. In addition, the CDC has identified some at-risk individuals who were not on the list.

As of June 29, officials have identified nine confirmed cases and seven deaths (two probable and five confirmed) from fungal meningitis in the U.S. acquired through epidurals administered at the two clinics from January 1 to May 13, 2023.

In addition, the agency has identified 15 suspected cases and ten probable cases and is investigating an additional 161 people to determine if they have the disease.

Because symptoms of fungal meningitis can quickly become life-threatening, the CDC urges anyone who has had an epidural at one of the two clinics during the specified timeframe to go to the nearest emergency room for an evaluation — even if they are currently experiencing no symptoms.

The agency says people should tell the emergency room staff they recently had an epidural at one of the two Mexican clinics and need to be evaluated for a possible fungal meningitis infection.

Evaluation for the disease involves a lumbar puncture (LP) or spinal tap — a procedure in which healthcare providers collect spinal fluid for testing by inserting a needle into the lower back.

Moreover, the CDC recommends that anyone scheduled for an epidural in Matamoros, Mexico, should cancel their procedure until evidence proves there's no longer a risk of fungal meningitis at the two clinics.

Symptoms of fungal meningitis include fever, stiff neck, headache, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and confusion. However, signs of the disease may take weeks to appear and may be mild initially. Still, once symptoms start, they can rapidly become severe or life-threatening.

Healthcare providers treat the disease using antifungal drugs administered in the hospital, followed by a three to six-month course of medication to completely clear the infection. Unlike other types of meningitis, fungal meningitis is not contagious and does not spread from person to person.

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