WHO says 'unknown pneumonia' is on their 'radar'

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So far, a total of six patients in Argentina have undergone testing after being struck by a mystery illness, as three patients are currently still hospitalised. Tests ruled out the presence of most common infections, like COVID-19, sparking concerns of a new disease outbreak. Health officials on Wednesday announced that two people in northwest Argentina died this week from a form of severe pneumonia of “unknown origin”.

While this disease is puzzling doctors, they assured that the situation was “under control”.

According to Argentina’s Ministry of Health, the six reported cases are five health workers and one patient who started showing symptoms between August 18 and August 22.

Three of the patients are still in the hospital, while one is in a “satisfactory condition” and has been isolating at home, according to health officials.

According to a statement by the National ministry, all of them “started showing symptoms between August 18 and 22.”

The provincial minister, Luis Medina Ruiz, said: “These patients have in common a severe respiratory condition with bilateral pneumonia, and present an imagery very similar to COVID-19, but this has been ruled out.”

He added that the cases “have already been tested for COVID-19, influenza, influenza A and B, hantavirus (rodent-borne infections), and 25 other germs,” all of which were negative.

He noted that while this disease may be due to an infectious agent like a virus or bacteria, toxic and environmental causes have not been ruled out.

Authorities are not analysing the water and air conditions and sending samples for further analyses to the national reference laboratory in Buenos Aires.

Mr Ruiz added: “No new cases have been reported since August 22.”

This included the close contacts of the patients, which the minster hailed as “positive news”, assuring that the situation is “under control”.

He said: “We want to reassure the population that the situation is under control.

“The patients are hospitalised, isolated and there is strict monitoring by our teams in coordination with the medical centres where they are hospitalised.”

Health authorities in Tucuman have ordered a seven-day preventive isolation of the Luz Medica Hospital, where the cases were detected.

Speaking of the latest person to die from the illness, the ministry said in a statement: “This is a 45-year-old male patient with comorbidities who had been hospitalised at the Eva Perón hospital since August 21.

“National and provincial health authorities are working together to carry out the investigation of the outbreak, including the follow-up of the contacts of the cases and specific control actions in the health centre where the outbreak occurred.”

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According to Argentine health authorities, no new cases have been detected since August 22.

The director of the Luz Médica Hospital, Alejandro Lembo, urged people to remain “calm”, clarifying that authorities have been investigating this outbreak for more than a week.

He said: “So far, the virus and bacteria tests have been negative.

“This situation was generated eight days ago and there were no other cases (…).

“The paranoia that has been generated in society has nothing to do with the current situation.”

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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