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ARGENTINA | 03-09-2022 16:30

Health officials links four pneumonia deaths in Tucumán to Legionnaires' disease

A fourth patient has died in the mysterious outbreak of a pneumonia of unknown origin in Tucumán, as a local outlet reports that at least one of the 11 infected have tested positive for Legionnaires' disease.

Tucumán health officials said Saturday that four people in a clinic in northwestern province had died of Legionnaires' disease, a relatively rare bacterial affliction of the lungs.

Health Minister Carla Vizzotti told reporters that Legionnaires' had been identified as the underlying cause of double pneumonia in the four, who had suffered high fevers, body aches and trouble breathing. 

The deaths, all since Monday, occurred in a single clinic in the city of San Miguel de Tucumán.

The latest, on Saturday morning, was that of a 48-year-old man with underlying health problems. A 70-year-old woman who had undergone surgery in the clinic was also a victim.

Seven other non-fatal cases have been identified, all in the same establishment and nearly all involving clinic personnel, provincial officials said.

The disease, which first appeared at a 1976 meeting of the American Legion veterans group in the US city of Philadelphia, has been linked to contaminated water or unclean air-conditioning systems.

When the outbreak in Tucumán was first detected, doctors tested the afflicted for Covid-19, flu and the hantavirus, but ruled all of them out. 

Samples were then sent to the prestigious ANLIS-Malbran Institute in Buenos Aires. Tests at the research body pointed to Legionnaires'.

On Wednesday, provincial health minister Luis Medina Ruiz had said that "toxic and environmental causes" could not be ruled out. He noted that the clinic's climate-control systems were being checked.

Vizzotti said authorities are working to ensure the clinic is safe for patients and staff.

Hector Sale, president of the Tucumán provincial medical college, earlier this week described the bacterial infection as "aggressive."

But he added that it is not normally transmitted person-to-person, and that no close contact of any of the 11 infected people showed symptoms.

 

– TIMES/AFP

 

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