Disneyland has shut down two bacteria-contaminated cooling towers after Orange County health officials found many cases of Legionnaires’ disease in people who had visited Disneyland Park, authorities said.
Twelve cases of the bacteria-caused illness were discovered about three weeks ago among people who had spent time in Anaheim and included nine people who had visited Disneyland in September before developing the disease, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. Their ages ranged from 52 to 94.
Orange County health officials said nine people who visited the Anaheim theme park in September developed the disease.
According to the LA Times, an additional three people who had been to Anaheim but not Disneyland got sick, said Jessica Good, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA). One patient, who had not visited the park and had additional health issues, died, she said.
According to Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, the towers were shut down after Disney was contacted by the county health care agency on October 27 about increased Legionnaires' cases in Anaheim.
"We conducted a review and learned that two cooling towers had elevated levels of Legionella bacteria," Hymel said.
"These towers were treated with chemicals that destroy the bacteria and are currently shut down. We have proactively shared this information with OCHCA and given our actions, they have indicated there is no longer any known risk associated with our facilities."
"To date, no additional Legionella cases have been identified with potential exposure in Anaheim after September," Good said.
The towers are in a backstage area near the New Orleans Square Train Station, each more than 100 feet from areas accessible to guests, a Disneyland Resort spokeswoman said Friday. A Disneyland employee is among those who fell ill with the disease.
Legionnaires' disease is a severe, often lethal, form of pneumonia. It's caused by the bacterium Legionella pneumophila found in both potable and non-potable water systems. The source of the mist can be air conditioning units in large facilities, showers or hot tubs. Legionnaires' disease is not contagious between humans. Each year, an estimated 10,000 to 18,000 people are infected with the Legionella bacteria in the United States.
The illness can be treated with antibiotics and hospital care, but about 1 in 10 people who get Legionnaires' disease die from the infection. Most at risk are people older than 50 with more weakened immune systems or chronic lung diseases.
Health officials issued an order that the towers will remain shut down until they are free from contamination. The results of the tests will not be known for about two weeks.
Orange County has recorded more than 55 cases of the disease this year and has seen the number of cases jump in recent years. A similar upward trend has been recognized nationally and elsewhere in Southern California, according to the healthcare agency, though what's causing that is unclear.
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