Disneyland shuts down 2 cooling towers after Legionnaires' disease cases

JAN. 22 2015 FILE

Nine cases of Legionnaires' disease have been diagnosed among Disneyland visitors in recent months and the Disneyland Resort has closed two backstage cooling towers located behind New Orleans Square.

Nine people contracted Legionnaires' disease after they visited Disneyland in Anaheim in September, officials said. One patient, who hadn't visited the park, has died. 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. Neither Disney nor the contractor would have been aware of the human cases at that time. Disney independently made a decision to take the towers out of operation the day before, Good said. The towers were taken out of service November 1, disinfected, went back in operation on November 5 but were shut down again Tuesday and will remain offline until tests confirm they are free from contamination, according to the park and the county health agency. "We conducted a review and learned that two cooling towers had elevated levels of Legionella bacteria", the statement said.

The 12 victims ranged from 52 to 94 years old. It is treated with antibiotics and hospital care, but one in 10 of those who contract the disease dies from infection.

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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.

There is no known ongoing risk associated with the outbreak, according to Good.

Cooling towers are evaporative systems that provide cooled water for various uses such as refrigeration but not for drinking water. It becomes problematic when it is in large quantities, typically due to stagnant or improperly sanitized spas and water systems. Legionnaires' disease is caused by bacteria growing in water that can spread when small droplets get into the air and people breathe them in, according to the CDC. The incubation period is two to 10 days before symptoms appear, after exposure to the bacteria. Infected persons often have pneumonia and may need to be hospitalized.

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