Should we worry about the “pneumonia of unknown origin” that killed three people in Argentina?

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Additional analyzes should be carried out this weekend in a laboratory in Buenos Aires to try to detect the pathogen at the origin of the observed cases. To date, the contaminations remain centered around a hospital.

Located in San Miguel de Tucumán, in the north of Argentina, the Luz Médica private clinic is currently in the spotlight, after at least 9 cases of pneumonia of still unknown origin were detected there. A situation that is all the more scrutinized as the lethality is important: three people affected by the disease died. They are two officiating caregivers at the clinic, and a 70-year-old patient, suspected of being “patient zero.”

“The province is going through a difficult situation,” acknowledged Luis Medina Ruiz, provincial Minister of Health.

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A pneumonia of unknown origin, which is declared in a foreign country… The scenario that is currently emerging in Argentina may recall the beginnings of the Covid-19 pandemic. But experts urge not to panic.

serious lung infections

“As soon as we have caregivers in a hospital with pneumonia, we have the right to think that this is an epidemic episode,” explains Jean-Pierre Thierry, BFMTV’s health consultant.

“But we can note that the local authorities reacted very well. They handled the situation very well, putting in place the protocols that must be applied at this time”, he continues.

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As reported in a press release from the Pan American Health Organization, attached to the WHO, the symptoms in the first patients began between August 18 and 22: fever, muscle pain, abdominal pain and difficulty breathing. Six patients presented bilateral pneumonia, that is, with simultaneous involvement of both lungs, with “an image very similar to that of Covid,” said Luis Medina Ruiz. The Pan American Health Organization adds that all those who died had comorbidity factors.

Several tests were carried out to try to detect the origin of the mysterious illness, but all were negative. Thus, Covid-19, influenza, type A and B influenza, as well as hantavirus, transmitted by rodents, are ruled out.

The trail of legionellosis?

In-depth examinations are now carried out at the Malbran Institute in Buenos Aires, the Argentine reference laboratory. A situation that is not exceptional. “We cannot test all known pathogens at once,” he stresses in The express epidemiologist Mircea Sofonea.

The Minister of Health of Tucumán estimated this Wednesday that the origin of the pathology could be an infectious agent, but did not rule out “toxic, environmental causes.”

“One of the possible causes of this disease is legionellosis”, indicates Jean-Pierre Thierry. “Similar situations happen two or three times a year. These are sporadic cases, where caregivers can be affected.”

This serious lung infection is caused by bacteria called Legionella. It is not spread from one person to another, as the Ministry of Solidarity and Health recalls, but it can be contracted after inhaling water aerosols. More specifically, showering with contaminated water can trigger the disease.

In late 2003-early 2004, an epidemic, for example, caused 18 deaths in Pas de Calais. Managers of a petrochemical plant had been convicted, accused of having spread the bacteria through cooling towers.

“Local Pollution”

In Argentina, no case has yet been identified outside of the people who have been in contact with the Luz Médica clinic. “At the moment, it seems limited,” explains Jean-Pierre Thierry.

“We are not facing a disease that is transmitted from person to person,” said Héctor Sale, rector of the medical school of the province of Tucumán, according to the BBC.

“It remains a mystery, because the pathogen is still unknown,” admits Jean-Pierre Thierry. “But there is no reason to worry, because to date all the cases have been identified in the establishment. Rather we are facing a local contamination. We do not have the characteristics of a pandemic that would spread, ”he concludes.

Author: Julius Fresard
Source: BFM TV

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