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Utah health department reports 4 cases of bacteria linked to weight-loss surgeries in Mexico

By Carter Williams, | Updated - Jan 23rd, 2019 @ 3:23pm | Posted - Jan 23rd, 2019 @ 2:08pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah health officials announced Wednesday they have at least four confirmed cases of an infection caused by an antibiotic-resistant form of bacteria believed to be linked to weight-loss surgeries conducted in Mexico.

The state is one of several in the country dealing with similar cases. Rebecca Ward, health educator for the Utah Department of Health, said the department is investigating to confirm more cases in Utah, as well.

She said the Utah Department of Health and officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating a “cluster of surgical site infections” caused by the antibiotic-resistant bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa. In addition, those infected may be at risk for bloodborne infections, such as HIV or hepatitis.

“What we were seeing in this cluster is that these infections occurred among U.S. residents who had traveled to Tijuana, Mexico, to receive a medical procedure," Ward said. "Most of these procedures were weight-loss surgeries.”

Those who underwent the weight-loss procedures “may have been exposed to bacterial infections and bloodborne infections,” as a result, Ward said. About half of the people infected had their surgeries at Grand View Hospital in Tijuana, Mexico, according to the Utah Department of Health.

Mexican government officials closed the hospital after the CDC gave them information about the outbreak, according to a CDC statement.

“There were others who got infected at other hospitals, as well,” Ward added.

Anyone who had a procedure at Grand View Hospital in August 2018 or after and are experiencing fever, redness, pus or drainage from the surgical incision site or swelling at the incision site should seek medical care immediately, health officials said.

Health officials added that anyone who went through the procedure should also be tested for hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV, even if they do not show symptoms.

“This particular infection that we’re concerned with is really resistant to a specific type of antibiotic, and it can be very difficult to treat,” Ward explained. “Without addressing these, complications can result. We want to make sure people get prompt treatment.”

Ward explained the surgeries are a part of “medical tourism,” which is when people travel out of the country for medical procedures because they are less expensive or because the treatments are not offered in the U.S.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the Utah Department of Health urged caution for those who travel out of the country for surgery.

“Neither the (Utah Department of Health) nor CDC has authority to assure quality of care or patient safety in Mexico or any international hospitals,” agency officials wrote. “Patients considering surgery in foreign countries should consider the associated risks.”

Contributing: Kira Hoffelmeyer, KSL Newsradio

Carter Williams

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