Utah resident dies following surgical procedure in Tijuana, Mexico

File photo: Gephardt Daily

TIJUANA, Mexico, July 22, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — A Utah resident has died after traveling to Tijuana, Mexico to undergo weight-loss surgery and testing positive for an antibiotic-resistant form of Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria (VIM-CRPA), officials said Monday.

A news release from the Utah Department of Health said a total of eight Utahns, including the patient who died, have been infected or colonized with VIM-CRPA after traveling to Tijuana for similar surgical procedures. All of the other patients recovered. To protect the privacy of the deceased patient and their family, no other information will be released publicly, officials said.

“The Utah Department of Health interviewed the patients or their family members and discovered seven of the eight patients, including the patient who died, reported the same surgeon, Dr. Mario Almanza, performed their operations,” the news release said. “Five of these patients reported they had been referred to Dr. Almanza through an online referral service known as Weight Loss Agents.”

Nationally, there have been reports of these highly antibiotic-resistant organisms in patients who received healthcare in Mexico.

“We cannot provide any assurances of patient safety or quality of care to individuals who are considering undergoing such procedures in Tijuana,” said Dr. Allyn Nakashima, manager of the UDOH Healthcare-Associated Infections/Antimicrobial Resistant Program. “I cannot stress enough the safest course of action is not to travel to Mexico for these procedures. Using an internationally accredited facility is not a guarantee that your medical care will be free of complications.”

The UDOH first announced the outbreak of VIM-CRPA infections in January and recommended Utah residents not travel to Mexico to undergo such surgeries. The Utah cases are linked to similar cases nationwide, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is assisting in investigating the outbreak.

Individuals who had a surgical procedure in Tijuana during or after August 2018 and are experiencing any of the following signs of infection should seek medical care immediately as serious complications may result without prompt treatment:

  • fever
  • redness
  • pus or drainage from the surgical incision site
  • swelling at the surgical incision site.

Anyone considering traveling abroad for medical procedures should visit the CDC medical tourism web page here for more information prior to traveling. Tell your healthcare provider about any travel and all medical care or surgeries abroad to help guide effective treatment. Travelers should also consult with a travel medicine specialist in the U.S. at least one month before a planned trip. Travel medicine specialists can provide guidance, vaccines, and medicines needed for your trip. You can find a travel clinic near you here.

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