Argentine health officials said Saturday that four people died of Legionnaires’ disease at a clinic in the northwestern province of Tucuman. This is a relatively rare bacterial infection of the lungs.
Legionaris has been identified as the underlying cause of double pneumonia (infecting both parts of the lung) in the four who suffered from high fever, body aches and shortness of breath, Health Minister Carla Vizotti told reporters.
The four have died since Monday at a clinic in the city of San Miguel de Tucuman.
Lastly, a 48-year-old man with underlying health problems died on Saturday morning. A 70-year-old woman, who underwent surgery at the clinic, also died of pneumonia.
Provincial officials said seven more symptomatic infections have been identified, all from the same facility and almost all clinic workers.
Provincial Health Minister Luis Medina Ruiz said on Saturday that of the seven, ‘four are hospitalized, three of them are on ventilator support and three are under observation at home with less complicated clinical symptoms.’
The disease, first seen at a 1976 meeting of the American Legion Veterans Group in Philadelphia, USA, has been linked to contaminated water or unclean air conditioning.
When the outbreak was first identified in Tucumán, doctors tested victims for Covid-19, flu and hantavirus, ruling out the possibility of such diseases.
The samples were then sent to the prestigious Malbran Institute in Buenos Aires. There tests indicated it was ‘Legionari’s’ disease.
Medina Ruiz said Wednesday that “toxic and environmental factors” cannot be ruled out. He noted that the clinic’s climate-control system is being tested.
Vijotti said authorities are working to ensure the clinic is safe for patients and staff.
Tucuman Provincial Medical College president Hector Sell described the bacterial infection as ‘aggressive’ earlier this week.
But he added that it is not usually transmitted from person to person and that none of the close contacts of the 11 infected people showed symptoms.