There's a fungal meningitis outbreak in Mexico surgical centers, your patients may be impacted

By Claire Wolters | Fact-checked by Jessica Wrubel
Published May 31, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Following a fungal meningitis outbreak linked to epidural anesthesia procedures in Mexico, the CDC is urging impacted people to seek emergency care.

  • Fungal meningitis is rare but can be deadly without treatment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging patients who had epidural anesthesia in certain centers in Matamoros, Mexico, over the last few months to seek emergency evaluation for fungal meningitis. 

The warning follows an outbreak of fungal meningitis among patients at River Side Surgical Center and Clinica K-3 from January 1 to May 13, 2023, who underwent surgeries like liposuction. The CDC is working with the Mexican Ministry of Health as well as US state and local health departments to identify those at risk and respond to the outbreak. According to records thus far, about 224 people in the US have potentially been exposed to meningitis through the outbreak.

According to the CDC, of those identified, 206 cases are “under investigation” (meaning they are awaiting spinal tap results or asymptomatic), 9 cases are “suspected” (meaning their spinal tap results are pending or unknown, but their symptoms are consistent with meningitis), 9 cases are “probable” (meaning their spinal tap results suggest meningitis but the fungus has not been identified) and 0 cases have been fully confirmed. Two deaths have occurred—these patients were previously marked as having “probable” cases.

Meningitis can be deadly, so quick treatment is vital for those exposed. Even for asymptomatic exposures, the CDC says, “starting treatment right away greatly increases the likelihood of survival.”

ER doctors treating patients for fungal meningitis should first order an MRI scan of the head to “look for evidence of infection of complications” and then treat patients with a spinal tap, says the CDC. Patients who test positive in lab work must be treated with antifungal medications—sometimes for several months. Patients who test negative may be in the clear, but the CDC advises them to maintain caution and “continue to watch for symptoms for at least four weeks.

Symptoms of fungal meningitis can include:

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Stiff neck

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Confusion 

These symptoms may not develop right away—some start weeks into the infection—but can increase in severity over time.

The good news is that fungal meningitis is not contagious from person to person and is rare outside of the current outbreak. Further, the average patient is not at risk without known exposure.

For increased protection going forward, the agency continues to urge people who received epidural anesthesia in certain centers in Matamoros, Mexico, to seek treatment and others to avoid seeking surgical procedures in that area for the time being.

What this means for you

A fungal meningitis outbreak has been linked to epidural anesthesia procedures in Mexico, and more than 200 US people may be impacted. The CDC is urging impacted people to seek emergency care, as the infection can be deadly without treatmen

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