Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Anaheim, possible links to Disneyland

Georgia Reed
November 13, 2017

Disneyland Park has shut down two cooling towers at its park in Southern California following an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease.

A total of a dozen cases of the bacterial lung infection were discovered in Anaheim, California about three weeks ago, the Orange County Health Care Agency announced Friday. One patient, who hadn't visited the park, has died.

Ten of the victims - who ranged in age from 52 to 94 - were hospitalized.

According to a LA Times report, Disney reported on November 3 that routine testing had detected elevated levels of Legionella in two cooling towers a month earlier, and the towers had been disinfected. The towers were chemically treated to combat the problem, and there is no ongoing threat to guests' health, the Register reports.

"To date, no additional Legionella cases have been identified with potential exposure in Anaheim after September", Good said.

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Legionnaires' disease is caused by Legionella bacteria that grows in water, and it can spread when small droplets get into the air, according to the CDC.

"On Oct. 27, we learned from the Orange County Health Care Agency of increased Legionnaires' disease cases in Anaheim". But in large concentrations, often due to stagnant or improperly sanitized water systems, the bacteria can be transmitted through inhaling contaminated water vapor.

Hymel says that most people who are exposed to the bacteria do not become ill, and those that are at risk are people who are immunocompromised, elderly, and or have chronic lung disease. It is typically contracted by breathing mist from the water that contains it. The towers will reopen once they are no longer contaminated, park officials said. Disneyland was informed of the Anaheim cases on October 27 and after testing found that two cooling towers had elevated levels of Legionella bacteria. On Nov. 1, more testing and disinfection was performed and the towers were brought back into service on Nov. 5.

Health officials subsequently issued an order that the towers remain shut down until they are verified to be free from contamination.

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