New mysterious lung disease in Argentina: Next pandemic or no cause for concern?

New mysterious lung disease in Argentina: Next pandemic or no cause for concern?
Credit: Belga/Benoit Doppagne

An unexplained outbreak of pneumonia at a private clinic in Argentina leaves experts and authorities confused as the mysterious disease has take the lives of three people, while four patients are in hospital on a ventilator.

The outbreak is reminiscent of the start of the Covid crisis at the end of 2019, but experts say it is also also conceivable that the outbreak will end with a sizzle, as often happens.

According to the Argentine health organization PAHO, ten people are currently infected with the mysterious disease, three of whom have passed away.

The patients experience symptoms similar to Covid: pneumonia, with fever, muscle aches, abdominal pain and shortness of breath. “It’s big news here,” said Enrique Borym, an Argentine clinical pathologist who covered the case on social media.

The cause is still unknown. The patients did not test positive for the most obvious possibilities, being flu, Covid, RS virus and a number of other respiratory viruses. They also tested negative for the tropical disease hantaan.

Unusual infectious disease

Of the ten patients, eight are health workers at the hospital where the outbreak was detected. This may indicate that it is a disease that is already circulating in the population, Professor of Virology Marion Koopmans told De Morgen.

“It is difficult to spot an unusual infectious disease in the population. There are several examples where a newly emerging infection was the first to be noticed because there was an outbreak in a hospital. Then you will notice.”

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The main suspect as ‘patient zero’ would then be a 70-year-old woman, who was admitted for an operation a few weeks ago. The fact that eight employees subsequently became ill could indicate a fairly contagious disease. How the newly discovered patient is related to the other patients is still unclear.

On a brighter note

On the bright side, no new infections seem to have arisen among the contacts of the patients in the past few days. That could indicate that the outbreak will die out as it arose: spontaneously, as an unsolved mystery, as often happens. The deceased were all elderly and ill, indicating that the disease seems especially harmful to vulnerable people.

Disease outbreaks that aren’t immediately understood are common, and don’t always indicate the need for excessive concern. However, since the Covid pandemic, mysterious disease outbreaks have come under more scrutiny, especially when pneumonia is involved.

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