(CNN) – Some Americans who have had surgery in Tijuana, Mexico, have returned home with antibiotic-resistant infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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All travelers who have been diagnosed with potentially lethal bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa or CRPA resistant to carbapenems, have undergone invasive medical procedures. The most common procedure was surgery to lose weight, the CDC said. The agency did not indicate when surgical interventions were performed or how many patients were infected. "Infections caused by this drug-resistant Pseudomonas in particular are rare in the United States and difficult to treat," the CDC said. Patients often need combinations and courses of complex and long antibacterial drugs to overcome the infection.
Almost half of the infected patients underwent surgery at the Grand View Hospital in Tijuana; the rest has undergone surgical interventions in other hospitals and clinics in the area.
The CDC says the Mexican government has closed the Grand View Hospital until further notice, but the agency still suggests that travelers are not operated until the authorities confirm that the drug-resistant bacteria are no longer present.
"Medical tourism" or traveling to another country for medical treatment is a growing trend all over the world. Between 11 and 14 million people travel each year to receive medical assistance, according to industry estimates. The main destinations include Costa Rica, India, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and the United States, according to Patients Beyond Borders, a medical tourism guide. Many people are attracted by the potential to reduce costs.
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The Medical Tourism Association, an international trade organization that serves as a liaison between patients and international suppliers, has calculated the value of the industry at 100,000 million dollars in 2016-17.
According to their latest survey on providers, approximately 72% of patients who used medical tourism traveled to cancer, spine and other orthopedic treatments, followed by cosmetic and plastic surgery and cardiovascular and neurosurgical procedures.
More than 50% of surgical interventions cost between 10,000 and 50,000 dollars, while 16% range between 50,000 and 100,000, according to the survey.
Caution is recommended
There are significant risks in traveling abroad for medical treatment, warning the CDC.
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"Antibiotic resistance is a global problem and resistant bacteria may be more common in other countries than in the United States," warns the agency.
The CDC offers several suggestions for anyone thinking of medical tourism, including seeking information on the doctor or the surgeon as well as on the clinic or the hospital. Choose the structures that have international credentials. Please note that standards for suppliers and clinics in other countries may differ from those in the United States.