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Argentina 'mysterious' pneumonia that killed six 'is Legionnaire's disease', experts find

Six people have died of mysterious pneumonia in Argentina, raising fears of a new virus outbreak (file image)

‘Mysterious’ pneumonia that has killed six in Argentina is ‘Legionnaire’: mystery solved after fears of another Covid-style outbreak

  • Two men, aged 81 and 64, were the last to die from the outbreak on Sunday
  • All six people who died from the pneumonia tested positive for Legionella
  • Several forms of the bacteria can cause the deadly Legionnaires’ disease

Legionnaires’ disease is responsible for six deaths from a “mysterious” pneumonia in Argentina, officials ruled today.

The situation in Tucuman, a small region 800 miles northwest of the capital Buenos Aires, sparked fear because of its similarities to the start of the Covid outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Experts were worried because Covid, influenza and hantavirus were all ruled out – raising the possibility that a never-before-seen pathogen had jumped from animals to humans.

But follow-up tests confirmed that all 11 sick patients had tested positive for Legionella.

The bacteria can lead to Legionnaires’ disease, a serious type of pneumonia that can prove fatal.

Victims so far include a 70-year-old woman who underwent gallbladder surgery and a 64-year-old man who was hospitalized with another condition.

An 81-year-old man in Tucaman was the latest to die from the previously unexplained disease, officials confirmed today.

Six people have died of mysterious pneumonia in Argentina, raising fears of a new virus outbreak (file image)

Six people have died of mysterious pneumonia in Argentina, raising fears of a new virus outbreak (file image)

The cases occurred in Tucumán, a small region 800 miles northwest of the capital, Buenos Aires


What happened? Eleven people in Argentina have contracted pneumonia, an inflammation of tissue in the lungs.

Pneumonia is usually caused by a bacterial infection or a virus.

The Argentine patients tested negative for 30 common viruses, raising concerns that a new pathogen could be the culprit.

But health officials have confirmed all cases have tested positive for Legionella, the bacteria behind Legionnaires’ disease.

Who is affected? At least eight healthcare workers and one patient in intensive care were infected, with the rest coming from other hospital patients.

A 70-year-old woman being treated at a private health clinic in Tucuman, a small region 800 miles northwest of the capital Buenos Aires, was the first to die on Monday.

The next fatalities were two paramedics on Wednesday and Thursday and a 48-year-old man on Saturday.

Two men aged 81 and 64 died on Sunday.

Two infected are still in the hospital, three in outpatient treatment with home monitoring.

Is it a concern? Western experts said it was too early to sound the alarm.

Outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease are common and usually self-limiting because the disease is so deadly.

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And the bacteria behind the disease don’t always cause deaths, often resulting in milder symptoms.

But the similarities to Covid’s origins and the brutal last two years of the pandemic were a cause for concern.

Reports of unexplained pneumonia leaked out of Wuhan, China in December 2019.

All cases have been linked to the same cluster at a private health clinic in the northwestern city of San Miguel de Tucuman.

Experts last week called the outbreak “worrying” and said the cases among healthcare workers could indicate human-to-human transmission.

The Tucaman Department of Health initially called the cases “pneumonia of unknown cause.”

Similar terminology was used in Wuhan in December 2019, later revealed to be Covid.

However, other experts have argued that similar clusters are common and tend to just “fizzle out”.

Two of the infected are still in the hospital, three are being monitored at home.

Twelve other patients at the clinic who were not afflicted by the disease were transferred to the Centro de Salud hospital in the same city.

Health authorities moved the patients as part of their emergency plan to avoid further spread.

On Saturday, Argentine Health Minister Carla Vizzotti said: “It has a more important impact on people with risk diseases.

‘[These include] People over 50 years of age, smokers or other chronic diseases such as diabetes or immunodeficiency or respiratory diseases, which in the majority of cases have been fatal.’

Legionella is usually spread by breathing in tiny droplets of water that contain the responsible bacteria.

This is usually done through air conditioners, hot tubs, and humidifiers.

Hospitals, hotels and offices are places where it spreads most often.

Most cases of legionellosis — the umbrella term for diseases caused by bacteria — don’t kill, just cause fever, chills, and a headache for two to five days.

However, some can lead to fatal pneumonia, an infection of the lungs that can also cause muscle pain, diarrhea, and confusion.

This is what happens with Legionnaires’ disease.

The outbreak in Argentina has caused the same symptoms.

Legionnaires’ disease, which can be treated with antibiotics, typically kills about 10 percent of the people it infects.

Professor Paul Hunter told MailOnline: “It’s not the next pandemic. You don’t get human-to-human spread with Legionnaire.

“It’s almost certainly a problem with the installation. In the past you’ve seen outbreaks due to dirty shower heads, which tend to be fairly local.

“If it’s a water cooling tower problem, you tend to see larger outbreaks than this, but from the information we have now, a showerhead or plumbing is more likely.”

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