Disneyland shuts down cooling towers after reported disease outbreak

Henrietta Brewer
November 11, 2017

Officials at Disneyland have shut down two cooling towers that were found to have high levels of Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires' disease. County epidemiologists discovered that a cluster of people diagnosed with the disease had recently visited, lived or worked in Anaheim and contacted Disney after learning that several of them had gone to the theme park.

The remaining three were Orange County residents who did not visit the park but lived or traveled in Anaheim. Neither Disney nor the contractor would have been aware of the human cases at that time. The towers underwent more testing and disinfection on November 1 and were running again four days later. "Disney took the towers out of service on November 1, performed more testing and disinfection, and brought them back into service on November 5".

Test results for the towers could take up to two weeks. Two cooling towers that were in an area inaccessible to guests have since been disinfected and shut down until health officials can certify them as disinfected. Those who were afflicted ranged in age from 52 to 94. Ten of the 12 were hospitalized and one person with additional health issues died. The deceased had not visited Disneyland, the Register reports.

Although the Health Care Agency sent alerts to medical providers and other public health departments to help identify other people who have contracted Legionnaire's disease, the agency issued no public press releases or statements because "there was no known, ongoing risk associated with this event", Good said.

"On Oct. 27, we learned from the Orange County Health Care Agency of increased Legionnaires' disease cases in Anaheim".

The bacteria commonly is found in water systems and poses no threat to humans at low levels. It becomes problematic when it is in large quantities, typically due to stagnant or improperly sanitized spas and water systems.

Legionnaire's Disease is a serious lung infection most often caused by inhaling microscopic water droplets tainted by the bacteria legionella. People who develop symptoms may experience fever, cough, chills, shortness of breath, headaches, muscle aches and diarrhea.

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

The illness can not be spread by person to person contact.

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