Disneyland Shuts Down Two Cooling Towers After Legionnaires' Disease Outbreak

Disneyland has shut down two bacteria-contaminated cooling towers after Orange County health officials discovered several cases of Legionnaires' disease in people who had visited the Anaheim theme park, authorities said.

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 person, who had not visited Disneyland, died from the disease.

The Orange County Health Care Agency said 12 people aged 52 to 94 contracted the disease. In a statement, Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said Disneyland learned about the Legionnaires' cases on October 27.

According to the OCHCA, the Legionnaire's disease exposure period ranged from September 12 to September 27, Hymel said, adding that Disney thoroughly reviewed all regular water testing for the resort, "including work performed by contracted third-party experts", and "implemented additional redundant testing of other cooling towers on our property". "These towers were treated with chemicals that destroy the bacteria and are now shut down".

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Legionnaires' disease is a type of pneumonia caused by legionella bacteria.

The towers traced to the outbreak were located near the New Orleans Square Train Station, both towers more than 100 feet from public areas.

Good also said there was "no known ongoing risk with this outbreak". But in large concentrations, often due to stagnant or improperly sanitized water systems, the bacteria can be transmitted through inhaling contaminated water vapor.

The disease can be treated with antibiotics. Those at higher risk include people over the age of 50 with weak immune systems or lung problems. It brought the towers back into service November 5, but two days later, they were taken out of service again, she said. Soon after, an order was issued by the health agency requiring preventing Disney from reopening the towers before health officials verified that they were free from Legionella contamination.

  • Ismael Montgomery