Legionella suspected of causing illness that killed 4 and sickened 7 in Argentina, health officials say – NBC News
An illness affecting 11 people in Argentina, killing four, could have been caused by Legionella, a bacterium that causes Legionnaires disease, public health officials said on Saturday. Officials were trying to identify what caused the malady, which has sickened 11 people associated with a private clinic in the town of San Miguel de Tucuman, about 670 miles north of Buenos Aires.
Health officials said on Saturday that Legionella bacteria had been identified from tests on four samples – three respiratory samples and one biopsy of one of those who died. “The suspicion is that this is a legionella pneumonia outbreak, said Dr. Carla Vizzotti, the country’s minister of health, in a statement. The data is still preliminary, and final diagnoses are still expected, Vizzotti added.
The Legionella bacteria can spread when people breathe in tiny drops of water or accidentally ingest water that contains bacteria in their lungs, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. It can cause Legionnaires disease, a severe form of pneumonia.
The 11 patients linked to Luz Medica Clinic included three who were being monitored and receiving medical care; a 64-year-old man who had underlying conditions or comorbidities, who was admitted in critical condition; and an 81-year-old man also admitted in critical condition, according to a health department release from Tucuman province. Three employees of the clinic were also sickened: a 40-year-old pharmacy assistant who was hospitalized, a 44-year-old nurse monitoring her home, and a 30-year-old nursing technician, provincial health minister Luis Medina Ruiz said in a press briefing this week. The health ministry in Tucuman Province said on Saturday a fourth death was linked to the cluster. The dead man was described as a 48-year-old with multiple underlying conditions and was confined in serious condition at the hospital, the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said the three others killed also suffered from pre-existing conditions.
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A 70-year-old woman, who had gallbladder surgery in a clinic, is among those killed. She was initially considered the “Patient Zero,” Ruiz said, but her case will undergo additional analyses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, legionella bacteria can spread when people breathe in tiny drops of water or accidentally ingest water that contains bacteria in their lungs. It can cause Legionnaires disease, a severe form of pneumonia.
Symptoms, which first appeared in six cases linked to the plant, developed between Aug. 18 and Aug. 23, provincial public health officials said. The latest cases included three patients announced Thursday; one announced Friday, and one announced Saturday. The World Health Organizations American body, the Pan American Health Organization, said the Argentine health ministry informed it of the initial cluster of six patients Tuesday. PAHO said Thursday the defining features of the then-mysterious disease included bilateral pneumonia, defined as an infection of both lungs, along with fever, muscle pain, abdominal pain, and breathing difficulties.
Tests for respiratory viruses, along with other viral, bacterial, and fungal agents, so far in the first six cases were negative, PAHO said in a statement Thursday. At a press conference earlier this week, along with Ruiz and other health officials, it was announced that early tests also appeared to have eliminated Covid-19, Legionella, and the hantavirus, all of which are transmitted by rodents. Additional tests, including ones that will look for non-infectious, possibly drug-related or toxic fueled causes, are being conducted in the Argentine governments National Laboratory, the PAHO said.
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