Disneyland in Anaheim, California has been forced to shut down two cooling towers have been found to be contaminated with Legionella bacteria. The tainted towers are thought to be the cause of an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at the park and the surrounding city. So far, 12 cases have been linked back to the park.
The patients were discovered approximately three weeks ago. Nine of the people had actually visited the theme-park in September before getting ill. The other three cases were residents who lived in or traveled to Anaheim.
The age ranges of the patients ranged from 52 to 94. Ten of them were hospitalized and one, who according to health officials had “additional health issues,” died. That person did not visit Disneyland.
Legionnaires’ is a severe lung infection, a form of pneumonia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states;
“Legionnaires’ is caused by breathing in small water droplets contaminated with Legionella germs. About 5,000 people are diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease and there are at least 20 outbreaks reported each year. Most identified outbreaks are in buildings with large water systems, such as hotels, long-term care facilities, and hospitals.”
Health officials say they have not found any other cases linked to Disneyland and Anaheim since September. Orange County Health Care Agency issued a statement that “There is no known ongoing risk associated with this outbreak.”
The towers are essentially industrial-sized misters. They are located more than 100 feet from areas where guests are which clearly did not work to eliminate the threat. Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts stated;
“On Oct. 27, we learned from the Orange County Health Care Agency of increased Legionnaires’ disease cases in Anaheim. We conducted a review and learned that two cooling towers had elevated levels of Legionella bacteria. These towers were treated with chemicals that destroy the bacteria and are currently shut down.”
Orange County has documented more than 55 cases of Legionnaires’ this year. The number of cases has risen in the past few years and a similar trend is being seen across America including other places in Southern California. The Health Care Agency says the cause for that increase is unclear.
There is no word on if Disney will be held liable for any of these cases. The CDC website does state that;
“Legionella grows best in building water systems that are not well maintained. Building owners and managers should adopt newly published standards that promote Legionella water management programs, which are ways plans to reduce the risk of this germ in building water systems.”
This could indicate there was some negligence involved but so far, no suits have been filed.