Update – Legionella identified as cause of cluster of pneumonia cases in Tucuman, Argentina

Press conference Minister of Health Argentina, PAHO representative

Photo caption: Press conference on 3 September 2022. From left: Luis Medina Ruiz, Minister of Health for Tucumán Province; Carla Vizzotti, Minister of Health of Argentina; Eva Jane Llopis, PAHO and WHO Representative in Argentina. Credit: Ministerio de Salud Pública de Tucumán, Argentina.

Washington, D.C., 3 September 2022 (PAHO) - The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has been informed by the Argentina Ministry of Health that legionella has been confirmed as the cause of a cluster of pneumonia cases associated with a health clinic in the province of Tucuman, Argentina.

To date, a total of 11 cases have been identified, including four deaths in patients with comorbidities.

Legionella, in particular bacterium L. pneumophila, is associated with outbreaks of severe pneumonia. The most common form of transmission is inhalation of contaminated aerosols produced in conjunction with water sprays, jets or mists. Infection can also occur by aspiration of contaminated water or ice, particularly in susceptible patients in hospital environments. Treatment includes the administration of antibiotics for several weeks or months. 

The Argentina Ministry of Health and the provincial health authorities are working to identify the source and implement appropriate control measures. They are collecting environmental samples, conducting risk assessments, and implementing actions in the healthcare clinic related to the outbreak.

PAHO is providing support to Argentinian health authorities from its Headquarters and the PAHO Country Office in Argentina to investigate and characterize the outbreak.

The PAHO and World Health Organization Representative in Argentina, Eva Jane Llopis, accompanied Argentina’s Minister of Health Carla Vizzotti to a site visit today.

In agreement with the national and provincial authorities, PAHO will also send a multidisciplinary team of experts next week to support surveillance, infection control measures within hospital care, and the identification of the origin of the outbreak at the hospital infrastructure level.