Argentine officials probe deadly unexplained pneumonia outbreak

Chest x-ray
Chest x-ray

Tonpor Kasa / iStock

Health officials in Argentina are investigating an unexplained pneumonia outbreak cluster linked to a healthcare facility in Tucuman province in the northern part of the country that has sickened 10 people so far, 3 of them fatally, according to government and media sources.

In a statement today, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), a regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO) said it received notification from Argentina's health ministry on Aug 30 about a cluster of 6 bilateral pneumonia cases (involving both lungs) due to an unknown source, 2 of them fatal.

PAHO said five case-patients are healthcare workers and one is a patient who is hospitalized in the intensive care unit (ICU) at a private clinic in the city of San Miguel de Tucuman.

Symptom onsets range from Aug 18 to Aug 22. Symptoms include fever, muscle soreness, abdominal pain, and difficulty breathing. Three patients were hospitalized and one is isolating at home in stable condition.

COVID, hantavirus, Legionella ruled out

Testing at the local health lab was negative for known respiratory viruses and other bacterial and fungal causes. Officials said initial testing has ruled out COVID-19, hantavirus, and Legionella. Samples have been sent to a national lab for further testing.

Provincial health officials yesterday reported 3 more cases, all involving healthcare workers who have similar symptoms.

PAHO said that, of 9 cases reported so far, 3 are fatal and that no cases so far have been identified among the patients' contacts. Provincial officials said yesterday that the third death involved a 70-year-old woman who was not a medical staff member but had undergone surgery at the facility.

Chemical tests pending

Today, the Tucuman province health ministry reported a tenth case, an 81-year-old man who has underlying health conditions and is hospitalized in serious condition. He had previously been hospitalized in the same facility linked to the other patients in the cluster.

In a separate statement, the ministry said 5 of the 10 patients remain hospitalized in serious condition, with 4 of them requiring mechanical ventilation. Three are being treated on an outpatient basis. Officials added that they haven't found any pathogens in the facility's water and results of chemical tests are pending.

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