As fungal meningitis hospitalizations increase, Valley health officials says not enough people are being tested for it

3 months 3 weeks 30 minutes ago Wednesday, June 07 2023 Jun 7, 2023 June 07, 2023 9:18 PM June 07, 2023 in News - Local

The number of people hospitalized with fungal meningitis in the Rio Grande Valley keeps rising, weeks after state officials confirmed an outbreak linked to two clinics in Matamoros, Tamaulipas.

A Cameron County health officials says there are eight patients hospitalized with the infection, and that one of the three deaths linked to it is a county resident.

That number is a cause of concern in Hidalgo County.

“[We’ve had] 23 cases of interest,” Cameron County Health Authority Dr. Ivan Melendez said. “Of those 23, four are in the hospital. Another one tested positive, but left the hospital against medical advice. Of the ones that are left, seven have tested negative, and the remainder refuse to get tested."

Melendez said people aren't prioritizing the need to get tested, with people telling him “there's no time" or that they don't like needles.

“It's been very frustrating for us because this disease is so indolent,” Melendez said. “It takes so long for it to show symptoms, it moves so slow."

RELATED: CDC reports third death linked to fungal meningitis outbreak in Matamoros

The outbreak is affecting hundreds of people who traveled to Matamoros for surgery — something that's common in the Valley.

“A lot of people go to Mexico for their medical health care needs,” Cameron County Health Administrator Esmeralda Guajardo said. 

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Jose Campo-Maldonado works with many of the fungal meningitis patients who are hospitalized at Valley Baptist Medical Center. He says experts in infectious diseases and neurologists are working hand in hand at the hospital to treat the rare outbreak.

“We have developed our own protocols to assess, diagnose, and treat these patients and get information out there for medical providers more fast and provide a local guidance,” Campo-Maldonado said, adding that he's noticed the sooner these patients start treatment the better.

“We expect that those people overtime will progress to a more symptomatic infection,” Campo-Maldonado said. “And the infection will have more time to cause damage in the central nervous system, and probably the vessels, if the treatment started later rather than earlier."

If you or someone you know got a surgery in Matamoros at K3 Clinica or Riverside Surgical Center, contact the Cameron County Public Health Department at 956-247-3650.  

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