Disneyland Shuts Down Cooling Towers After Infecting Visitors With Legionnaire’s Disease

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Disneyland in Anaheim, California, has shut down two of its cooling towers that were found to be contaminated with Legionella bacteria.

The move came after Orange County health officials found numerous cases of Legionnaires’ disease in people who visited the theme park.

Twelve cases of Legionnaires’ disease were detected about three weeks ago among people aged between 52 and 94 and had spent time in Disneyland Anaheim. Out of them, nine cases were related to those who visited Disneyland, including a Disneyland employee, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Disneyland said that regular testing has found high levels of the bacteria in two cooling towers in October, according to the health agency. Subsequently, the towers were disinfected and put out of service on Nov. 1. More disinfection and testing measures were followed before bringing the towers back into service on Nov. 5.

Disneyland, however, took the cooling towers out of service again on Nov. 7, in advance of an order issued by the health agency the next day, which required they remain nonoperational until test results guarantee they are free from contamination.

“On Oct. 27, we learned from the Orange County Health Care Agency of increased Legionnaires’ disease cases in Anaheim,” said Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “We conducted a review and learned that two cooling towers had elevated levels of Legionella bacteria.”

Meanwhile, the county health agency also asked to watch for symptoms of the disease in anyone who may have become unwell after visiting Disneyland or Anaheim before Nov. 7.

Legionnaires’ disease is caused by the Legionella bacteria, which thrives in water and spreads when tiny droplets of the infected water contaminate the air and people inhale it.

The outbreaks of the disease are generally found in huge air-conditioning systems and cooling towers that release water vapor into the air as well as decorative fountains and hot tubs. The disease’s symptoms take two to 10 days to appear. However, it is not contagious, as it is not spread from one person to another. 

Hospital care and antibiotics can treat the disease, but one in 10 people can die from the infection. People more than 50 years of age, especially those with chronic lung diseases or weakened immune systems, are more at risk from the disease.

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