Mystery pneumonia: symptoms of illness that has killed 3 in Argentina, and how does it compare to Covid?

The epidemic intelligence team of the European Centre for Disease Control is reportedly monitoring the situation in Argentina

Three people have died and six more are ill in Argentina with a mystery pneumonia “very similar to Covid”.

But what is the illness?

The epidemic intelligence team of the European Centre for Disease Control is reportedly monitoring the situation in Argentina

Here’s what you need to know.

What is the mystery illness?

At a press conference on Thursday (1 September), Luis Medina Ruiz, the minister of public health of the Tucumán province, reported the death of a 70-year-old patient and the identification of three employees of the medical facility with symptoms.

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He said: “What these patients have in common is the severe respiratory condition with bilateral pneumonia and compromise in images [x-ray] very similar to Covid, but that is ruled out.”

Of the nine people found to be infected so far, eight were reportedly health workers, and one of them was an ICU patient treated at a private clinic in Tucumán.

Dr Ruiz said of the ICU patient: “She was hospitalised and underwent surgery for a gallbladder problem. She was re-operated twice. From then on, an infectious pulmonary disease took place, the date of which coincides with the onset of symptoms in the other patients, around August 20.

“Although it is not yet clear which came first, at first she was considered patient zero, but she is under study based on the deepening of the analyses that are being carried out.”

The medical facility has been placed under preventive isolation for seven days as authorities study the outbreak’s origin.

The epidemic intelligence team of the European Centre for Disease Control is reportedly monitoring the situation in Argentina and scientists at the World Health Organisation are also tracking the situation.

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Is it Covid?

Authorities say the symptoms of the mysterious illness were first reported between 18 and 22 August, but experts have ruled out Covid, influenza and Hantavirus as causes behind the illness, according to local news reports.

Dr Rogelio Calli, director of epidemiology of the provincial health system, said: “It is very similar to Covid, hantavirus; it can be viruses or bacteria.”

However, so far, tests for Covid, hantavirus, and some strains of legionella have yielded negative results, the ministry said.

Authorities said they are continuing to carry out the research protocol for blood cultures, sputum cultures, urine cultures, and “all the viruses and bacteria that we have available in the province”.

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“The most important thing is that if someone had a working relationship during those days with these patients and presents any symptoms, they present themselves at our on-call services and report it,” they added.