An outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease in Poland has killed 16 people. Infections have been rising in Rzeszow, whose strategic location near the Ukrainian border has transformed it into a hub for the Western response to Russia’s invasion.
The outbreak has been concentrated in the southeastern city of Rzeszow, which lies about 60 miles from the border with neighboring Ukraine, according to a report by The New York Times. Although some cases have been registered elsewhere the outbreak doesn’t appear to be “widespread” just yet. The Polish health ministry said this week on X, formerly Twitter, that the most likely source of infection was Rzeszow’s municipal water network.
❕W związku z sytuacją dot. #Legionella informujemy, iż zmniejsza się liczba pacjentów trafiających obecnie do szpitali oraz pacjentów, u których rozpoznaje się zakażenie tą bakterią. 📉@GIS_gov i @PSSE_RZESZOW prowadzą wzmożone działania nad wzmocnieniem nadzoru nad…
— Ministerstwo Zdrowia (@MZ_GOV_PL) August 28, 2023
So far, 16 people have died and 150 have been hospitalized with the disease. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Legionnaires’ disease is a serious type of pneumonia (lung infection) caused by Legionella bacteria. People can get sick when they breathe in small droplets of water or accidentally swallow water containing Legionella into the lungs.
Legionnaires’ disease can be fatal in about 10 percent of cases, according to the CDC. Most healthy people exposed to the bacteria do not become sick, but the risk is higher among the elderly and people with weak immune systems.
Stanislaw Zaryn, the deputy minister who oversees Poland’s intelligence services, said Friday that the Polish internal security service was pursuing a routine investigation into the circumstances behind the infection to rule out “potential intentional action in this case.”
Działania #ABW dotyczące zakażeń legionellą są konieczne, by wykluczyć hipotezy dot. części potencjalnych scenariuszy.
Działania Agencji mają charakter rutynowy👇 pic.twitter.com/942rh3zXXF
— Stanisław Żaryn (@StZaryn) August 25, 2023
“The actual number of registered cases in the last two weeks is what we usually record in two years,” Professor Flisiak said in an email. But the number of cases in Poland was still small compared to regular outbreaks in other European countries, he added.
The New York Times is blaming “climate change” for the outbreak.
Rising temperatures spurred in part by climate change may have played a role in the outbreak, Professor Flisiak said, as the bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease thrive in the heat. Like much of Europe, Poland has had sweltering temperatures this summer, part of a continentwide heat wave. –The New York Times