HARLINGEN, Texas (Border Report) — Texas health authorities are warning residents against traveling south of the border to have surgery in Matamoros, Mexico, especially cosmetic surgeries.

The Texas Department of State Health Services on Tuesday issued an alert to residents and physicians about suspected cases of fungal meningitis among Texans who have recently had surgery in Matamoros, which is a popular destination for cosmetic surgeries.

Four people currently are hospitalized and one person has died, a public health investigation by TDSHS, so far, has found.

Some of the victims had liposuction and other cosmetic surgeries at clinics in Matamoros, including the River Side Surgical Center, and Clinica K-3, according to a travel health alert sent out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(CDC Graphic)

“It is very important that people who have recently had medical procedures in Mexico monitor themselves for symptoms of meningitis,” DSHS Commissioner Dr. Jennifer Shuford said. “Meningitis, especially when caused by bacteria or fungus, can be a life-threatening illness unless treated promptly.”

All five victims traveled from Texas to Matamoros to get surgical procedures that involved an epidural — an anesthetic injected into the area around the spinal column.

“Meningitis, especially when caused by bacteria or fungus, can be a life-threatening illness unless treated promptly. People should consider canceling or postponing any elective surgeries, including liposuction, involving epidural anesthesia in Matamoros until there is evidence those procedures do not pose a significant risk of infection,” Shuford said.

Mexican health authorities also are investigating the source of the infections, whether the cases are linked, and whether there are more cases.

Shuford warns that anyone who had surgery involving an epidural in Matamoros this year should contact their doctor and inform them of their risk of fungal infection, and should seek care if they develop meningitis symptoms.

Meningitis is swelling of the protective covering of the brain and spinal cord. It can be caused by bacteria, virus, fungus or trauma. Common symptoms include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, confusion and sensitivity to light.

Anyone who experiences symptoms and had surgery in Matamoros involving an epidural injection of an anesthetic should “go to a hospital emergency department immediately,” the CDC says.

The agency also urges anyone with an upcoming surgery in Matamoros that involves an epidural injection of an anesthetic should cancel the procedure.

The five victims — ages 30 to 50 — had symptoms appear three days to six weeks after surgery.

DSHS urges health care professionals to consider fungal infection in patients with symptoms of central nervous system infection who received surgical care in Matamoros. And doctors should report any suspected cases to their local health departments.