Disneyland shuts down 2 cooling towers after Legionnaires' disease cases

Joy Montgomery
November 12, 2017

Disneyland has shut down and decontaminated two cooling towers following an outbreak of Legionnaires disease that sickened 12 people, nine of them guests or employees at the theme park in Anaheim, county health officials said on Saturday. Ten of the people were hospitalized and one person "with additional health issues" died, despite not visiting the park, OCHCA Public Information Officer Jessica Good said in a report by KNBC-TV. The victims' ages range from 52 to 94.

"On October 27, 2017, when the Disneyland Park was identified as a common location of eight (8) cases, HCA contacted the Disney organization and set up site visits at the Park to assess potential sources".

The health agency had tracked 12 cases of the respiratory disease in the Anaheim area, including the nine cases among Disneyland visitors. The towers were chemically treated to combat the problem, and there is no ongoing threat to guests' health, the Register reports.

County authorities were informed by the the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention three weeks ago of several cases of the disease among people who had traveled to Orange County in September.

ANAHEIM, CA - DECEMBER 13: Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse Statue at Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty's Holiday Castle and "Believe In Holiday Magic" Fireworks spectacular held at Disneyland Resort on December 13, 2007 in Anaheim, California.

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Legionellosis refers to illness caused by Legionella bacteria and usually results from exposure to contaminated water aerosols or from aspirating contaminated water.

The county agency issued an order November 8 requiring Disney to take the towers out of service until they are shown to be free from contamination. The park and a contractor tested the cooling towers and found elevated levels of Legionella bacteria. That person did not visit Disneyland, she said. Outbreaks often happen in hot tubs, cooling towers and large air-conditioning systems that emit water vapor into the air.

Those most at risk of getting sick from Legionella infection include people who are smokers, have chronic lung disease or weak immune systems, and people over the age of 65.

Treatment includes antibiotics, though hospitalization may be needed for older patients.

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