The Philippines is capable of testing samples for Legionnaires’ disease (Legionella), which has already been identified as the cause of a cluster of pneumonia cases in Argentina, the Department of Health (DOH) said Monday.
The agency is also closely monitoring developments through the International Health Regulations, DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
“We have the capacity to do surveillance for that and RITM or Research Institute for Tropical Medicine is very much capable of doing laboratory surveillance for this type of disease,” she said.
Legionella is associated with outbreaks of severe pneumonia. The disease, known as Legionnaires’ disease, has a variety of symptoms ranging from cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, headaches and fever.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said the disease is serious but can be treated with antibiotics.
“Most healthy people do not get Legionnaires’ disease after being exposed to legionella. Being 50 years or older or having certain risk factors can increase your chances of getting sick,” the CDC said.
Some of the risk factors include being a current or former smoker, having chronic lung disease like emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and having a weakened immune system either through illness or immunosuppressant drugs.
The bacteria, which grows in water if not properly maintained, is usually spread through water droplets in the air.
“Outbreaks are commonly associated with buildings or structures that have complex water systems, like hotels and resorts, long-term care facilities, hospitals, and cruise ships,” the CDC said.
Sources of infection include water used for showering, cooling towers, decorative fountains and hot tubs.
Argentine health officials said Saturday that 4 people in a clinic in northwestern Tucuman province had died of Legionnaires’ disease, a relatively rare bacterial infection of the lungs.
Health Minister Carla Vizzotti told reporters that Legionnaires’ had been identified as the underlying cause of double pneumonia in the four, who had suffered high fevers, body aches and trouble breathing.
The deaths, all since Monday, occurred in a single clinic in the city of San Miguel de Tucuman.
The latest, on Saturday morning, was that of a 48-year-old man with underlying health problems. A 70-year-old woman who had undergone surgery in the clinic was also a victim.
Seven other symptomatic cases have been identified, all from the same establishment and nearly all involving clinic personnel, provincial officials said.
Of those 7, “four remain hospitalized, 3 of them under respiratory assistance, and 3 are under home surveillance, with less complicated clinical symptoms,” said provincial health minister Luis Medina Ruiz on Saturday.