Fears over mystery pneumonia after death of three people in Argentina

·1-min read
A member of staff looks at the results of a lung scan (stock photo)  ((PA Wire))
A member of staff looks at the results of a lung scan (stock photo) ((PA Wire))

Fears are growing over a mysterious strain of pneumonia that appears to have killed three people in Argentina.

Three other people needed hospital treatment after contracting the “pneumonia of unknown origin”, Argentinian health authorities announced.

Five of the six affected were health care workers, which suggests an infectious agent may be involved, they added.

“What these patients have in common is the severe respiratory condition with bilateral pneumonia and compromise in [x-ray] images very similar to Covid, but that is ruled out,” Luis Medina Ruiz, Tucumán’s minister of health, said on Wednesday, according to local media.

All six patients have been tested for Covid, cold, influenza of both types A + and B +, Hantavirus and 25 other germs but no virus has yet been identified.

The six cases, consisting of five health workers and one patient, presented bilateral pneumonia symptoms. Three are still hospitalised with another remaining person “in good health in home isolation”.

The Tucuman health ministry is investigating the cause and route of transmission after the cases were first discovered in mid-August.

The hospital has been locked down and has since stopped accepting new patients. Since August 22, no new cases have been detected.

There are concerns the mystery virus mirrors the early stages of Covid-19 when it was first discovered in Wuhan, China. But experts say more data is needed before “ringing the alarm”.

Prof Devi Sridhar, chair of global health at Edinburgh University and author of ‘Preventable’ told The Telegraph: “It’s obviously concerning but we still need key information on transmission and hopefully [on the] underlying cause.

“This shows our collective vulnerability to dangerous pathogens. An outbreak in any part of the world – if not quickly contained – can spread rapidly given air travel and trade.”