Mysterious respiratory illness kills two healthcare workers, patient at clinic, sickens six in Argentina

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A third person has died this week in Argentina of an unknown type of pneumonia, health officials said Thursday.

In the northwestern state of Tucuman, nine people, including eight medical professionals, have fallen to a mysterious respiratory illness at a private clinic, Tucuman Health Minister Luis Medina Ruiz told reporters.

Three people – two health care workers and now a patient at the clinic – have died since Monday.

The WHO Regional Office of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) liaised with the Argentine Ministry of Health to investigate the cluster of cases. PAHO in a statement.

Officials are conducting tests, but Medina said they have ruled out Covid-19, the flu, influenza types A and B, Leonella bacteria and the rat-borne hantavirus.

Samples were sent to the Malbran Institute in Buenos Aires.

The latest victim was a 70-year-old woman who entered the clinic for surgery.

“It may be patient zero, but this is being evaluated,” Medina said.

The mysterious disease reached the first victim among health workers at the clinic on Monday and the second two days later.

The first six patients started showing symptoms between August 18 and 23.

Medina said on Wednesday that the patients had “bilateral pneumonia with severe respiratory complications… similar to Vivid.”

Symptoms include vomiting, high fever, diarrhea and body aches.

Out of the 6 people who are being treated, four are in critical condition in the hospital and two are isolated at home.

All other clinic staff were monitored.

Experts were concerned that it could contaminate or poison the water and air conditioners.

The state’s health ministry said Wednesday that the outbreak may have come from an infectious agent, but that investigators had not ruled out “toxic or environmental causes.”

“At the moment, we don’t have any cases other than the clinic that was hit,” infectious disease expert Mario Raya said Thursday.

Hector Salle, president of the Tucuman District Medical College, added: “We do not deal with human-to-human transmission” because no close contacts of the patients were found.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Minnesota, told Reuters that the lungs were heavily involved, so the cause was probably what the patients inhaled.

Osterholm says that “mysterious diseases” sometimes occur, and can often be explained by some local epidemic that has no implications.



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