Health authorities in Argentina are investigating a cluster of pneumonia cases from an unknown cause that has led to three deaths among 10 cases identified so far.
The illnesses have been centred around a private medical clinic in the city of San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina’s fifth-largest city, located in the northwest part of the country. The regional health ministry there said it has traced the onset of symptoms to some time between August 18 and August 22, according to an August 31 notice posted on its website.
Out of the nine known patients, three have died, three are hospitalised and one is home isolating in stable condition, the World Health Organization said in an email. The patients symptoms have included fever, muscle aches, abdominal pain and shortness of breath, according to the Pan American Health Organization, which acts as the regional office for the WHO in the Americas.
Samples from the patients have been tested by local public health authorities for respiratory viruses including Covid-19 and flu, as well as other known viral, bacterial and fungal agents, according to a statement from the PAHO. All tests so far have come back negative, meaning the cause of the pneumonia hasn’t been identified yet.
An August 30 report first identified six patients, all of whom had contact with one another at the clinic. That first group consisted of five healthcare workers and one patient who was hospitalized at the intensive care unit at the clinic. On September 1, another three health-care workers were found to have the illness.
On Friday, authorities said they found a 10th patient, an 81-year-old man with other health conditions, bringing the number of hospitalised patients in critical condition to four. Three other patients were getting outpatient care, the officials said in their update, one of whom had been hospitalised earlier.
Several infectious disease experts said on social media that the concentration of cases among health-care workers could indicate human-to-human spread of a pathogen, which would be a cause for concern.
The PAHO and the WHO are assisting in the investigation and are providing support to local health authorities, the organisations said. Contact tracing and control actions related to the healthcare clinic where the outbreak occurred are being performed by local health authorities, the WHO said.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
by Madison Muller & Riley Griffin, Bloomberg