Utahn dies, seven patients sickened after undergoing weight loss surgery in Tijuana

FILE: A generic image depicting a surgical procedure.

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah resident died after undergoing a surgical procedure in Tijuana, and health officials said seven other patients recovered after being sickened by the same bacteria.

The Utah County Health Department issued a press release Monday stating that all eight patients had traveled to Tijuana, Mexico to undergo weight loss surgery and tested positive for an antibiotic-resistant form of Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

The department states no details about the deceased will be released due to privacy concerns.

The patients underwent similar procedures and seven of the eight, including the deceased, reported their surgeon was Dr. Mario Almanza. Five of those patients said they were referred by a service known as Weight Loss Agents.

Dr. Allyn Nakashima, a program manager with UDOH, said there have been similar reports of antibiotic-resistant organisms among patients nationwide after traveling to Mexico for health care.

“We cannot provide any assurances of patient safety or quality of care to individuals who are considering undergoing such procedures in Tijuana,” Nakashima said. “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 outbreak of this bacteria was first reported by UDOH in January, and the agency issued a similar warning at that time.

The press release provides the following information about symptoms to be alert for and general tips for medical tourism:

“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; or
  • swelling at the surgical incision site.

Anyone considering traveling abroad for medical procedures should visit the CDC medical tourism web page 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 at https://bit.ly/32EyKwL

 

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