A MYSTERIOUS illness has killed three people, raising fears of a new viral disease.
A total of nine people have been infected with the bug in Tucumán, a rural province of Argentina.
It includes eight medical staff at a private clinic, The Luz Medica hospital, the province's health minister Luis Medina Ruiz told reporters.
The latest victim was a 70-year-old woman who had been admitted to the clinic for surgery.
Medina said the woman could have been "patient zero, but that is being evaluated."
Two health workers died earlier this week.
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All patients have had pneumonia – a respiratory illness that can be fatal – of “unknown origin”.
It bears similarities to Covid, when China initially saw a group of people in hospital with a severe respiratory illness with no obvious cause.
Medina said on Wednesday the patients were struck with "a severe respiratory condition with bilateral pneumonia… very similar to Covid”.
The first six patients started exhibiting symptoms, including vomiting, a high fever, diarrhoea and body aches, between August 18 and 23.
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Of the six people receiving treatment, four were in serious condition in hospital and two were in isolation at home.
The provincial health ministry said Wednesday the outbreak could have come from an infectious bug.
However, investigators are not excluding "toxic or environmental causes”, and are analysing the water and air conditioners for possible contamination or poisoning.
Infectious disease specialist Mario Raya said Thursday that "for the moment, we have no cases outside" the stricken clinic.
Added Hector Sale, president of the Tucuman provincial medical college, claimed "we are not dealing with a disease that causes person-to-person transmission".
No cases have been identified among close contacts of any of the patients.
Professor Devi Sridhar, chairwoman of global health at Edinburgh University, told the Telegraph: “It’s obviously concerning but we still need key information on transmission and hopefully [on the] underlying cause.
“This shows our collective vulnerability to dangerous pathogens.
“An outbreak in any part of the world, if not quickly contained, can spread rapidly given air travel and trade.”
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It comes after the emergence of a number of “new” viruses across the world.
India has warned of tomato flu spreading in children, and in China, a cluster of people were found to have a newly named “Langya” virus.
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