Three people have died and six others are suffering from a mysterious form of bilateral pneumonia in the northern province of Tucumán, local health authorities said Wednesday.
The origin of the outbreak of the pneumonia of "unknown origin," which does not correspond to Covid-19, Hantavirus or influenza, is as yet unknown.
Bilateral pneumonia, also known as double pneumonia, is a condition in which the infection affects both lungs.
Nine people in northwestern Tucumán province have been infected by the mysterious respiratory illness, including eight medical staff at the same private clinic in San Miguel de Tucumán, and three have died since Monday, provincial Health Minister Luis Medina Ruiz. told reporters.
The cases correspond to health workers and patients from the intensive care unit of a private hospital in San Miguel de Tucumán. They began to develop symptoms between August 18 and 22, an official report said.
Six patients initially presented with bilateral pneumonia, also known as double pneumonia, a condition in which the infection affects both lungs.
No new cases have been detected since August 22, it said. The health centre linked to the outbreak is now under isolation protocols.
"What these patients have in common is a severe respiratory condition with bilateral pneumonia and imaging [on x-rays] very similar to Covid, but this has been ruled out," said Medina Ruiz.
The official said that the patients had been tested for Covid-19, flu, influenza types A+ and B+, Hantavirus and 25 other viruses and that the mystery pneumonia had yet to be identified.
"Among the possible causes are, of course, infectious [viruses] and others that are toxic or environmental, which is why we are analysing the water, discharges from air conditioning, that is, other situations that generate similar episodes," he added.
The samples of the "cases of pneumonia of unknown origin" are being investigated by the ANLIS-Malbrán Institute laboratory, the main research laboratory in the country, Argentina's National Health Ministry said in a statement.
The third victim was a 70-year-old patient admitted to the same clinic where staff have been infected, ahead of a surgical procedure.
Medina said the woman could have been "patient zero, but that is being evaluated."
The first patient died on Monday and the second on Wednesday.
Of the last three cases, two are receiving hospital treatment and one is being monitored at home.