Disneyland shutters cooling towers after Legionnaires’ Outbreak sickens guests

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Two bacteria-contaminated cooling towers in Disneyland in Anaheim, California were shut down. Orange County health officials traced several of a dozen cases of Legionnaires’ disease to the Anaheim theme park.

A few of the cases were found in people who did not visit the theme park, but were living in or visiting the Anaheim area.

According to the Orange County Health Care Agency, 12 cases of the bacteria-borne illness were diagnosed about three weeks ago. Nine of those individuals had visited Disneyland Park in September prior to developing the illness. The ages of those who contracted the illness ranged from 52 to 94.

Ten of those with Legionnaires’ were hospitalized. One person, who reportedly had additional health complications, died. The deceased person did not visit the Disneyland park.

Legionnaires’ is defined as a severe lung infection caused by exposure to contaminated water or mist.

Officials say there have not been any other cases of Legionnaires’ tied to Anaheim or Disneyland since the September outbreak.

In a statement the healthcare agency said, “There is no known ongoing risk associated with this outbreak.” 

Disneyland moved the towers to a backstage area near the New Orleans Square Train Station. The company said each tower is more than 100 feet from areas that are accessible to guests, according to a Disneyland Resort spokesperson.

One of the individuals stricken with the disease is a Disneyland employee.

Disney conducted a review once they were notified by Orange County of the connection. The two cooling towers were detected to have elevated levels of Legionella bacteria, per Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “These towers were treated with chemicals that destroy the bacteria and are currently shut down.”

On November 3, Disney reported that a routine test had discovered elevated levels of Legionella in two cooling towers one month earlier. The towers were disinfected.

Disney removed the towers from service on November 1, administered additional testing and disinfection, and returned them to service on November 5.

Prior to receiving an order from the health agency, Disney removed the towers from service again on Tuesday.

The Orange County health agency has also alerted healthcare providers to be on the look out for Legionnaires’ disease in anyone who may have visited Anaheim or Disneyland before November 7.

To learn more about Legionnaires’ Disease, follow this link to information from The Mayo Clinic.

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