This week, a third Argentine died from an unusual strain of pneumonia that has affected nine people so far.
Each case revolves around a private medical facility in the province of Tucuman in the northwest.
Authorities say they’ve ruled out Covid and common flu strains, but they’re still checking for other infections.
Water and AC systems in the area are also being tested as part of the investigation.
A woman in her 70s who had been admitted to the hospital for surgery was the third victim.
Doctors think she may have been the first person to get sick with respiratory disease. The center’s medical staff members were among the other patients who developed the lung disease.
Their close friends and family are being monitored, but none have shown signs as of yet.
The mysterious disease took its first victim among clinic personnel on Monday, and a second two days later. Both of them, like the 70-year-old woman, had other underlying medical issues.
Between August 18 and August 23, the first six patients began to exhibit symptoms.
The patients were diagnosed with “a severe respiratory condition with bilateral pneumonia…very similar to Covid,” said Tucumán’s minister of health Luis Medina Ruiz.
A high fever, body aches, and respiratory problems were among the symptoms.
“We are not dealing with a disease that causes person-to-person transmission,” according to Tucuman Provincial Medical College President Hector Sale, who also informed local reporters that there have been no cases found among any of the patients’ close friends or family members.
Along with the Argentina health authorities, the Pan American Health Organization is keeping an eye on the issue.
Prof Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, told the BBC that it was “pretty much impossible” to predict the potential consequences at this time.
“These things happen from time to time. Often they just fizzle out, but not always.
“Sometimes they cause a substantial local outbreak or something even bigger.”
He said that because checks and tests can give results quickly, experts should have more answers in a few days.
“It is too early to comment on whether this represents a threat to a wider population, or remains restricted to the institution, or whether it might be caused by a new pathogen or one we already know about,” remarked Prof Beate Kampmann from The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
There are similarities to how the Covid outbreak started, according to Prof. Sir Peter Horby of Oxford University, including illnesses among healthcare personnel that involve severe pneumonia.
But he also said: “People shouldn’t be overly alarmed. There are other potential explanations.
“At the moment I’m not overly concerned but I’ll be watching it like a Hawk.”
Image Credit: Getty
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