Additional analyzes must be carried out this weekend in a laboratory in Buenos Aires to try to detect the pathogenic agent at the origin of the cases observed. To date, the contaminations remain centered around a hospital.
Located in San Miguel de Tucuman, in northern Argentina, the private clinic Luz Medica is currently in the spotlight, after at least 9 cases of pneumonia of as yet unknown origin were detected there. A situation all the more scrutinized as the lethality is important: three people affected by the disease died. They are two officiating caregivers in 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 health minister.
A pneumonia of unknown origin, declaring itself in a foreign country… The scenario which is currently taking shape in Argentina can 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 who present with pneumonia, we are entitled to think that it is an epidemic episode”, explains Jean-Pierre Thierry, health consultant for BFMTV.
“But we can notice that the local authorities reacted very well. They managed the situation very well, by putting in place the protocols to be applied in these moments,” he continues.
As reported in a press release from the Pan American Health Organization, attached to the WHO, the symptoms in the first patients started between August 18 and 22: fever, muscle pain, abdominal pain and difficulty breathing. Six patients presented with bilateral pneumonia, that is to say affecting both lungs simultaneously, with “imaging very similar to Covid”, indicated Luis Medina Ruiz. The Pan American Health Organization adds that those who died all had co-morbidity factors.
Several tests were carried out to try to detect the origin of the mysterious disease, but they all came back negative. Covid-19, influenza, type A and B influenza as well as hantavirus, transmitted by rodents, have thus been ruled out.
The trail of legionellosis?
In-depth examinations are now carried out at the Malbran Institute in Bueno Aires, the Argentine reference laboratory. A situation that is not exceptional. “We cannot test all the known pathogens at once”, underlines in The Express epidemiologist Mircea Sofonea.
The Minister of Health of Tucuman estimated on Wednesday that the origin of the pathology could be an infectious agent, but that “toxic, environmental causes” were not excluded.
“One of the possible causes of this disease is legionellosis”, indicates Jean-Pierre Thierry. “Similar situations occur two to 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 contagious from one person to another, as recalled by the Ministry of Solidarity and Health, but can be contracted following the inhalation of water aerosols. More concretely, taking a shower with contaminated water can trigger the disease.
At the end of 2003-beginning of 2004, an epidemic for example caused 18 deaths in Pas-de-Calais. The managers of a petrochemical plant had been convicted, accused of having spread the bacteria via cooling towers.
In Argentina, no case has yet been identified outside of people who have been in contact with the Luz Medica clinic. “For the moment, it seems limited”, explains Jean-Pierre Thierry.
“We are not dealing with a disease that is transmitted from person to person,” said Hector Sale, president of the medical university of the province of Tucumàn, as reported by the BBC.
“It remains mysterious, 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. We are rather facing local contamination. We do not have the characteristics of a pandemic. which would spread,” he concludes.
Source: BFM TV