2022-09-04| Trending

Four Dead as Authorities Confirm Argentina Pneumonia Outbreak Caused by Legionella

by Reed Slater
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After a concentrated group of mysterious pneumonia cases at a health clinic in Tucumán, Argentina, took the lives of four people, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) confirmed that legionella caused the outbreak. As of September 3, the Argentina Ministry of Health has recorded 11 cases as authorities continue to monitor the situation. 

Finding the Source of the Outbreak

PAHO said the pneumonia cases resulted from legionella (L.) pneumophila, a strain of legionella bacteria that causes diseases like pneumonia and Pontiac Fever. Authorities have not identified the source of infection but are collecting environmental samples, conducting risk assessments, and identifying infection control measures within the hospital. 

L. pneumophila is an airborne-transmitted bacteria, with one of the most common sources being cooling towers in air conditioning systems. An outbreak in France between 2003 and 2004 infected 86 people with L. pneumophila, resulting in 18 deaths. Researchers discovered the source of the infection stemmed from a cooling tower at a petrochemical plant, infecting people up to six kilometers away from the plant. 

PAHO is sending a multidisciplinary team to the Argentinian hospital to support surveillance and assist in identifying the outbreak’s origin at a hospital infrastructure level. Another origin source could be the hospital’s water or ice supply. 

Related Article: Monkeypox Cases Fall In The UK But A New Strain Of The Disease Emerges

The Dangers of Legionella

Researchers first identified legionella after a 1976 outbreak at an American Legion convention, an organization comprised of US military veterans. The outbreak infected 221 convention-goers, claiming the lives of 34. Once researchers identified the outbreak’s source as the newly-named legionella bacteria, authorities worldwide worked to establish new safety regulations to limit the spread through man-made infrastructure. 

Of the 11 cases at the Argentinian hospital, eight were hospital staff, and three were patients. The hospital reported the first case on August 18, but as of August 25, PAHO said there had been no new confirmed cases or secondary cases. Seven of the cases are men, and the median age is 45 years old. All four deaths were in patients with comorbidities leading to severe pneumonia.

L. pneumophila-derived diseases are fairly common worldwide, with the CDC reporting nearly 10,000 cases in 2018. The CDC also says legionella-derived diseases often result in mild symptoms, likely resulting in many undiagnosed cases. 

Although there is no vaccine to prevent legionella-derived diseases, cases are often treated with antibiotics for several weeks or months. Once infected, though, the mortality rate is very high, with about one in ten people dying from complications due to pneumonia or other respiratory tract infections. 

Legionella bacteria officially caused the mysterious pneumonia outbreak in a hospital in Tucumán, Argentina. Authorities are working diligently to pinpoint the source of the bacteria while monitoring current cases and infection control measures to prevent a larger outbreak. 

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