WARSAW (Agencies): The city of Rzeszow, situated in southeastern Poland near the border with Ukraine, is facing an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that has prompted an investigation by Poland’s Internal Security Agency (ABW). The agency is examining the possibility that the outbreak, which has claimed seven lives, could be an instance of “sabotage,” according to a spokesperson’s statement on Friday.
Stanislaw Zaryn, a spokesperson for security services in Warsaw, noted that Russia’s involvement could be inferred due to attempts to exploit the situation and generate panic. He indicated that such factors are being considered while assessing potential scenarios.
The outbreak has resulted in 113 confirmed cases spanning from Rzeszow to the town of Przemysl near the Ukrainian border. Those affected were aged between 64 and 95, with underlying conditions like cancer.
Ewa Leniart, the head of the regional government, indicated that the outbreak likely originated from the water supply system. Initial test results are anticipated on Monday after samples were sent to laboratories. Leniart reassured that authorities have the situation under control.
Rzeszow, located around 100 kilometers from the Ukrainian border, has been a critical hub for the supply of weapons, ammunition, and equipment from the US and NATO to Ukraine, particularly since Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine in February 2022. The city has also served as a transit point for Western leaders, including US President Joe Biden, traveling to Ukraine by train. The presence of US troops near the city has added to its significance.
The city’s strategic role in Western efforts has led to heightened suspicion within Warsaw regarding the outbreak’s origins. Poland has been conducting investigations targeting suspected “Russian spies,” which reportedly include professional hockey players and Ukrainian nationals.
Furthermore, Poland has augmented its military presence along the Belarusian border, citing concerns about potential “hybrid warfare” by the private military company Wagner Group. This group was relocated to Belarusian territory after their failed mutiny in June, and they are associated with Russia.
Legionnaires’ disease, caused by the legionella bacteria found in water, primarily leads to pneumonia. The fatality rate can be as high as 10%, often affecting individuals with pre-existing lung conditions. In the US, around 13,000 cases are registered annually, while the EU documented almost 11,000 cases in 2021, with 704 fatalities.