Argentina: what we know about the pneumonia of unknown origin that has already killed three people in a clinic

Argentina: what we know about the pneumonia of unknown origin that has already killed three people in a clinic

Should we fear a new pandemic? three people died since Monday in Tucumán, in northwestern Argentina, following severe pneumonia, highly localized cases around the same clinic. If the symptoms resemble those of Covid, however, the virus that appeared in China in 2019 and killed 15 million people worldwide has been ruled out, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Franceinfo takes stock of the information available on this new pathology.

Nine cases, three deaths, located in the same clinic

A total of nine cases have been identified, including eight members of the nursing staff, with symptoms that appeared between August 18 and 23, provincial Health Minister Luis Medina Ruiz explained at a press conference on Thursday, September 1. Two members of the nursing staff of the private clinic in San Miguel de Tucumán, located 1,300 km from Buenos Aires, died on Monday and Wednesday, and the minister announced the death of a third person on Thursday. This 70-year-old woman was a patient at this clinic.

this patient “He had been operated on for a gallbladder problem, then reoperated twice. From then on, there was a picture of lung infection that coincided with the onset [des symptômes] in the others”said Luis Medina Ruiz. She could in principle to be the ‘patient zero’, but it is under study”.

The infectologist Mario Raya, deputy director of the Zenón Santillán Health Center, the main public hospital in Tucumán, also assured this Thursday that “At the moment, we have no cases outside of this facility.”

Covid-like symptoms

In-depth tests are underway at the Argentine reference laboratory, the Malbran Institute in Buenos Aires, with results expected soon. But Covid, the flu, influenza type A and B and hantavirus (transmitted by rodents) have already been ruled out in particular, Luis Ruiz Medina announced this Wednesday.

Common symptoms are “A severe respiratory state with bilateral pneumonia, and an image very similar to Covid, but this has been ruled out.“, had also reported.

“Most began with vomiting, high fever, diarrhea and body aches, with a more complex course in some.”

Luis Medina Ruiz, Minister of Health of the Province

Of the six patients who are still alive, four are hospitalized with more or less severe symptoms, and two are being monitored in home isolation. The three new cases revealed Thursday are a 40-year-old nursing assistant and nurse, and a 30-year-old nurse with comorbidities.

Ongoing analysis to determine the origin of this disease

On the origin of the pathology, the provincial Minister of Health speculated this Wednesday that it could come from an infectious agent, but that was not ruled out. “toxic or environmental causes”. For this reason, analyzes are also being carried out on the clinic’s water and air conditioning systems. “So far we have not found anything that allows us to know the cause of the epidemic. As we do not know what it consists of, we do not know its evolution well”declared.

Person-to-person transmission ruled out a priori

According to the provincial Minister of Health, to date no cases have been identified among close contacts of the patients, a “positive news” according to him. “It would not be a disease that results in person-to-person transmission, since the close contacts of these patients do not present symptoms”, explained this Wednesday, in the same sense, the president of the Medical College of the province of Tucumán, Héctor Sale. As he expresses his “to worry” due to obvious pathology “aggressive”.

“There are each year it has emerging diseases that are subject to greater or lesser surveillance depending on their characteristics and the place where they occur”, ensures the free lunch Mircea Sofonea, professor of epidemiology at the University of Montpellier. “Argentina is not China. Population density and connections to the rest of the world are lower, so the risk of global spread is more limited.”

We must not transpose the trauma of Covid-19, even if there is a threat of a new epidemic.

Mircea Sofonea, professor of epidemiology at the University of Montpellier

in “Free Lunch”

“If the presence of a new pathogen is confirmed, the research work has only just begun…” concludes Mircea Sophonea.

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