Disneyland shuts down 2 cooling towers after Legionnaires' disease sickens park visitors

Alicia Farmer
November 11, 2017

County health officials say 12 people contracted the lung disease, including one Disneyland employee, with one person who had not visited the park ultimately dying. An estimated 13,000 cases a year result in hospitalization around the country, which works out to about 35 people a day nationwide.

The towers were found to be contaminated with Legionella bacteria, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. Of that total, nine had visited the park in September, and the remainder lived or traveled in Anaheim.

The water towers are situated in a backstage area near the New Orleans Square Train Station, and are more than 100 feet from areas accessible to guests, according to a Disneyland Resort spokeswoman.

Legionnaire's Disease is a serious lung infection most often caused by inhaling microscopic water droplets tainted by the bacteria legionella. Eight were visitors who stayed in Anaheim between September 12 and September 27, one was employed there, two were residents of the city, and one lived in another county but worked in Anaheim.

The health agency said there is no ongoing risk to the public and no other cases have been reported, although they cautioned public health officials to be aware of the situation.

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Case ages range from 52-94. The towers will reopen after it's confirmed they are no longer contaminated.

On November 3, Disney reported that routine testing had detected elevated levels of Legionella in two cooling towers a month earlier, and they were disinfected, according to the health agency.

"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 county health agency alerted health care providers to keep an eye on anyone who visited Anaheim or Disneyland and contracted Legionnaires' disease before November 7. While many people have no symptoms, it can cause serious pneumonia and prove unsafe to those with lung or immune system problems.

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