Cause of pneumonia cluster in Argentina identified as legionella

A cluster of pneumonia cases in Tucumán, Argentina, was caused by legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, the Pan American Health Organization said.

As of Saturday, a total of 11 pneumonia cases had been identified as part of the outbreak associated with a health clinic in the city of San Miguel de Tucumán, including four deaths in patients with underlying health conditions, the organization said.

The organization said Saturday it was informed by the Argentina Ministry of Health legionella was the cause, and added authorities are now investigating the source.

The ministry is “collecting environmental samples, conducting risk assessments, and implementing actions in the healthcare clinic related to the outbreak,” the update said. “PAHO is providing support to Argentinian health authorities from its Headquarters and the PAHO Country Office in Argentina to investigate and characterize the outbreak.”

Legionnaires’ disease is a serious type of pneumonia caused by legionella bacteria. People can get sick when they breathe in small droplets of water containing the bacteria, causing an infection in the lungs. The illness can be treated with antibiotics.

The bacteria can occur in shower heads and faucets, hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, decorative fountains or plumbing systems in large buildings.

Some health care workers at the clinic started to have symptoms between August 18 and 22, Argentina’s National Ministry of Health said in an earlier news release.

San Miguel de Tucumán is the capital city of the agricultural Tucumán province in northwest Argentina.

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