Legionella bacteria are the cause of pneumonia that killed four people in less than a week in Tucuman (northwestern Argentina), and which intrigued the medical community, Health Minister Carla Vizzotti announced on Saturday.
The agent that caused the outbreak of bilateral pneumonia “is legionella“, declared the minister in a press conference in Tucuman, adding that the precise type of legionella is 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 private clinic’s nursing staff had died, then a 70-year-old woman, a patient in the same clinic where she had undergone surgery.
Not a new Covid
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“, clarified Ms. Vizzotti.
“It was never about an ‘unknown virus’, rather that we had bilateral pneumonia of unknown origin“, she pointed out.
Water or air conditioning in the viewfinder
The provincial Minister of Health Luis Medina Ruiz had put forward on Wednesday the hypothesis of an infectious agent, but specified that were not excluded “toxic or environmental causes“. He had announced in particular ongoing analyzes on the water and the air conditioning system of the clinic.
“Measurements are underway in the clinic to identify if it (the bacterial agent) is in the water, and on the accumulator tank“, in order to “use the clinic again without any risk“, said Ms. Vizzotti again on Saturday.
Legionellosis is a serious pulmonary infection of bacterial origin, the contamination of which can be done through 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 pointed out this week that the pathology observed in Tucuman was “agressive“, but that it was not a priori a disease involving transmission from person to person, “that close contacts of these patients have no symptoms“.
Of the other seven identified patients of this pneumonia, “four remain hospitalized, three of whom are on life support, and three are under home surveillance, with less complicated clinical symptoms“, said Saturday Mr. Medina Ruiz.