A total of nine cases, including eight members of the nursing staff at the same private clinic in San Miguel de Tucuman, known as Tucuman (1,300 km from Buenos Aires), have been identified, with symptoms appearing between August 18 and 23, a indicated in a press conference Thursday the provincial Minister of Health Luis Medina Ruiz.
Two members of the nursing staff died on Monday and then Wednesday, and the minister announced on Thursday the death of a third person, a 70-year-old woman who was a patient in the same private clinic, where she had undergone surgery.
This patient “had been operated on for a gallbladder problem and then re-operated twice. From then on, there was a picture of pulmonary infection which coincided with the appearance (of symptoms) in the others”, he said. precise. This patient could “in principle be + patient zero +, but it is on the examination”.
Extensive examinations are underway at the Argentine reference laboratory, the Malbran Institute in Buenos Aires, and results were expected by the end of the week. But already, Covid, flu, type A and B influenza, and hantavirus (transmitted by rodents) in particular have been ruled out, Mr. Ruiz Medina said on Wednesday.
The common symptoms are “a severe respiratory state with bilateral pneumonia, and imaging very similar to Covid, but this has been ruled out”, he also reported. “Most started with vomiting, high fever, diarrhea and body aches, with a more complex course in some,” he said Thursday.
Of the six patients affected, four are hospitalized with more or less serious symptoms, two others are followed in isolation at home. The three new cases revealed on Thursday are those of a 40-year-old nurse and a nurse, and a 30-year-old nurse with comorbidities.
Aggressive, but not very transmissible?
Following the outbreak, an “intense search of all health personnel” at the clinic was launched for follow-up purposes, said Ruiz Medina.
The clinic, requested by AFP, declined to comment. No more than relatives of patients, including the deceased patient, outside the establishment.
Infectious disease specialist Mario Raya, deputy director of the Zenon Santillan Health Center, the main public hospital in Tucuman, also assured Thursday that “for the moment, we have no cases outside this establishment”.
“It’s an epidemic, in a certain place, with a specific cause and a certain number of people. For now, everything related to this pathology is under investigation,” he told local daily La Gaceta. from Tucuman.
Regarding the origin of the pathology, the provincial Minister of Health had speculated on Wednesday that it could come from an infectious agent, but that “toxic or environmental causes” were not excluded. Therefore, 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. Since we do not know what it consists of, we do not know the evolution well,” he said. .
However, he stressed that no cases had been identified in close contacts of patients to date, a “positive news” according to him.
“It would not be a disease that leads to person-to-person transmission, since the close contacts of these patients do not show any symptoms”, explained Wednesday, in the same direction, the president of the Medical College of the province of Tucuman, Hector Sale. While expressing his “concern” for a manifestly “aggressive” pathology.