Argentina: Legionella bacteria causing pneumonia that killed 4 people

A legionella bacterium is the cause of pneumonia which killed four people in less than a week in Tucuman (northwestern Argentina), and which intrigued the medical community, announced Saturday the Minister of Health Carla Vizzotti.

The agent that caused the outbreak of bilateral pneumonia “is legionella”, declared the minister at a press conference in Tucuman, adding that the precise type of legionella is in the process of being qualified.

Four people have died since Monday, and a total of eleven cases have been identified, centered around a private clinic in San Miguel de Tucuman, (called Tucuman) capital of the province of Tucuman.

Saturday morning the provincial health authorities announced a 4th death since Monday, a 48-year-old man, with comorbidities.

Before him, two members of the nursing staff of the private clinic had died, then a 70-year-old woman, a patient in this same clinic where she had undergone surgery.

A total of 11 people showed similar symptoms, and seven are still under treatment, according to the provincial ministry. Of the ten initial cases, eight were health care staff at that clinic.

Initial examinations had ruled out Covid, influenza, type A and B influenza, and hantavirus (transmitted by rodents) causes for these pneumonias, raising questions, and samples had been sent to the Malbran Institute in Buenos Aires, national reference in the field of infectious diseases, of which the Minister delivered the first results.

“The name of the bacterium is being typified, but it is possible that it is (Legionella) pneumophila,” Vizzotti said.

“It was never about an + unknown virus +, but rather that we had bilateral pneumonia of unknown origin”, she underlined.

– Water or air conditioning in the viewfinder –

The provincial Minister of Health Luis Medina Ruiz had put forward the hypothesis of an infectious agent on Wednesday, but clarified that “toxic or environmental causes” were not excluded. He had notably announced ongoing analyzes of the clinic’s water and air conditioning system.

“Measures are underway in the clinic to identify if it (the bacterial agent) is in the water, and on the accumulator tank”, in order to be able “to use the clinic again without any risk”, further indicated Ms. Vizzotti on Saturday.

Legionnaires’ disease is a serious pulmonary infection of bacterial origin, the contamination of which can be done by the respiratory route by inhaling the bacteria, “through water or air conditioning”, recalled the minister.

The president of the Medical College of the province of Tucuman, Hector Sale, had stressed this week that the pathology observed in Tucuman was “aggressive”, but that it was not a priori a disease involving transmission from person to person. person, “due to the fact that the close contacts of these patients do not show any symptoms”.

Of the seven other patients identified with this pneumonia, “four remain hospitalized, three of whom are on respiratory assistance, and three are under home surveillance, with less complicated clinical symptoms”, said Mr. Medina Ruiz on Saturday.

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