In a clinic in Argentina, three people die of a mysterious pneumonia

In a clinic in Argentina, three people die of a mysterious pneumonia

Three people have died since Monday in Tucuman in northwestern Argentina, from severe pneumonia, “of unknown origin”, cases extremely localized around the same clinic, and for which covid, influenza in particular have been discarded.

A total of nine cases, including eight members of the nursing staff at the same private clinic in San Miguel de Tucuman, known as Tucuman (1,300 km from Buenos Aires) have been identified, with symptoms appearing between August 18 and 23, said in Thursday press conference the Provincial Minister of Health Luis Medina Ruiz.

Two members of the nursing staff died on Monday and then Wednesday, and the minister announced on Thursday the death of a third person, a 70-year-old woman who was a patient in the same private clinic, where she had undergone surgery.

Examinations in progress

This patient “had been operated on for a gallbladder problem and then re-operated twice. From then on, there was a picture of pulmonary infection which coincided with the appearance (of symptoms) in others, ”he said. This patient could “in principle be ‘patient zero’, but that’s on the exam.”

Extensive examinations are underway at the Argentine Reference Laboratory, the Malbran Institute in Buenos Aires, and results were expected by the end of the week. But already, covid, flu, type A and B influenza, and hantavirus (transmitted by rodents) in particular have been ruled out, Luis Ruiz Medina said on Wednesday.

Common symptoms are “severe respiratory status with bilateral pneumonia, and imaging very similar to covid, but this has been ruled out,” he also reported. “Most started with vomiting, high fever, diarrhea and body aches, with a more complex course in some,” he said Thursday.

Aggressive, but not very transmissible?

Of the six patients affected, four are hospitalized with more or less serious symptoms, two others are followed in isolation at home. The three new cases revealed on Thursday are those of a 40-year-old nurse and a nurse, and a 30-year-old nurse with comorbidities.

Following the outbreak, an “intense search of all health personnel” of the clinic was launched for follow-up purposes, said Luis Ruiz Medina. On Wednesday, he speculated that the origin of the pathology could be an infectious agent, but that “toxic or environmental causes” were not excluded. Also analyzes are also in progress on the water and the air conditioning systems of the establishment.

“So far, we have not found anything that allows us to know the cause of the epidemic. Since we don’t know what it is, we don’t know evolution well,” he said. However, he stressed on Wednesday that no cases had been identified in close contacts of patients to date, “positive news according to him”.

A first observation is that “this would not be a disease that results in person-to-person transmission, since close contacts of these patients do not show any symptoms”, explained the president of the Medical College of the province of Tucuman, Hector Sale, quoted in the daily Tucuman Gazette. While expressing his “concern” for a manifestly “aggressive” pathology.

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