An unknown form of pneumonia has been found in Argentina and killed three people and sickened at least six other individuals.
The individuals who have come down with the new illness have been tested for other pneumonia-causing bugs, including COVID-19 and have all come back as negative.
All the most recent cases have been reported right around the small region of Tucumán, roughly 800 miles from the capital of Buenos Aires.
“It’s obviously concerning but we still need key information on transmission and hopefully [ the] underlying cause,” said Professor Devi Sridhar, chair of global health at Edinburgh University.
Reports from Ministry of Public Health of Tucmán Province stated that the first six cases all had similar symptoms including fevers, muscle pain, abdominal pain and had difficulty breathing.
“What these patients have in common is the severe respiratory condition with bilateral pneumonia and compromise in [Z-ray] images very similar to COVID, but that is ruled out,” said Tucmán health minister Luis Medina Ruiz.
The European Centre for Disease Control’s epidemic intelligence team has been looking at and monitoring the rising cases since Tuesday and scientists at the World Health Organization started tracking as well.
Since Tucmán is the only place known to be the origin of the infection, local officials have also been testing the water and air conditioning units to see if there are any factors there as well.
Currently there has been no proof that this mysterious pneumonia has been contagious from person-to-person transmission.
Professor Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, told the BBC in an interview that it is pretty impossible at this stage to say what the impact of the disease might since it is still so new.
“These things happen from time to time. Often they just fizzle out, but not always. Sometimes they cause a substantial local outbreak or something even bigger,” said Hunter.
He hopes that within the next few days that the experts who are working on the new disease will have even more answers due to the rapid speed that the tests can give results too.
Dr. Ruiz has also stated that given the current situation, it would be hard to predict an origin with it only being 11 days since the first case was announced.
Moreover, every person who has come in contact with the disease has has a difference response with the outbreak.
There is nothing that health officials can do at this point besides wait only because there is still many unknowns that are linked to the disease.
Nikki Indelicato is a Contributing Reporter at The National Digest based in New York. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.