Not just the attempted murder of Vice President Cristina Kirchner. In these hours there is another alert that keeps Argentina on its toes. The South American country is at the center of a possible new outbreak of pneumonia which has so far caused at least nine infections and three deaths.
The costs are mainly doctors, nurses and health workers of a private hospital in Tucumàn: an inland province, more than 1,200 kilometers from the capital Buenos Aires. A clue that led the authorities to immediately suspect a resurgence of Covid-19 or an outbreak of flu or hantavirus.
However, hypotheses excluded from the swabs to which the infected were subjected, including a patient. The last person to have lost his life is in fact a 70-year-old man who died in intensive care: where he was hospitalized following surgery.
The Argentine health authorities have turned the spotlight on this possible new infectious emergency, speaking of “bilateral pneumonia of unknown origin”. However, the Buenos Aires Ministry of Health makes it known that “no new cases have been registered since 22 August”.
Bilateral pneumonia similar to Covid-19
The onset of symptoms in the first six cases dates back to the period between 18 and 22 August. “What these patients have in common is the severity of the respiratory picture, determined by bilateral interstitial pneumonia – he explains louis medina ruiz, Minister of Health of the Province of Tucumàn -. A picture similar to that of Covid-19, also confirmed by chest x-rays. But obviously of another origin: the Sars-CoV-2 infection has in fact been excluded in all cases detected so far. “This as well as other possible 25 viral or bacterial causes. Hence the decision to send patient samples to the Malbran Institute of Buenos Aires – national reference center for infectious diseases – to carry out further investigations.
People who have come into contact with patients are currently in quarantine. Isolated health facility. Experts are also analyzing the water in the pipes and air conditioners, to check for the presence of the bacterium responsible for legionellosis.
The World Health Organization is already watching over the Argentine case
The available information is still partial. But the seriousness of the clinical pictures with which the infection seems to have presented itself does not leave the scientific community calm. The World Health Organization is following the developments and it is not excluded that in the next few hours it will decide to intervene publicly on the issue. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (Ecdc) is also taking care of the tracking of cases, in order to intercept any cases of importation into the Old Continent.
“What is happening in Argentina is objectively worrying, but before completing a risk assessment we need key information regarding the cause and mode of transmission of this possible infection,” he said. Devi Shridarhead of the public health department of the University of Edinburgh, to the English newspaper “The Daily Telegraph“.
The next steps to take
According to Jonathan Ballprofessor of virology at the University of Nottingham, “we may be faced with cases of pneumonia caused by a virus that is not recognized by routine tests in patients with a similar clinical picture. Gene sequencing could help us understand whether the cause of this outbreak is represented by a rare or entirely new pathogen “.
In any case, what is happening in the South American country demonstrates “our vulnerability towards some pathogens – concludes Shridar -. Covid-19 has taught us that an epidemic outbreak, if not adequately controlled, is able to spread quickly throughout the world through air travel and trade “.