Disneyland shut down two cooling towers in response to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease.
Disney shut down two cooling towers at its Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, after health officials notified the company about a cluster of Legionnaires’ disease cases among people who visited the park.
Prompted by an alert from the CDC, the Orange County Health Care Agency (HCA) said it identified 12 people who were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease in September, including nine who visited Disneyland. Another three patients — including one who died — lived or traveled in Anaheim, but did not visit the park, the department said. Patients ranged in ages from 52 to 94 years. Ten of the 12 were hospitalized.
Cooling towers, which are used in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning of large buildings, are a common source of Legionella contamination. According to the HCA, Disney reported that a contractor identified elevated levels of Legionella in two Disneyland cooling towers on Oct. 2, treating and disinfecting them 2 days later. The department said Disney was not made aware of the Legionnaires’ disease cases until several weeks later, on Oct. 27.
Disney shut down the two cooling towers on Nov. 1 for further testing and disinfection and brought them back into service on Nov. 5, according to the HCA. The company shut down the cooling towers indefinitely on Nov. 7 after meeting with HCA staff, 1 day before the department said it officially ordered them to be taken out of service.
According to the HCA, results from the most recent tests will not be available for days. The department said no additional Legionnaires’ disease cases have been identified since September.
“There is no known ongoing risk associated with this outbreak,” the HCA said.
Legionnaires’ disease is caused by inhaling contaminated water droplets. Since the disease was first discovered in 1976, experts have identified many potential sources for exposure, including windshield washer fluid, dishwashers, hospital hot water systems, street cleaning trucks and even water births. The incidence of Legionnaires’ disease is growing, having quadrupled in the United States between 2000 and 2014.
This is not the first infectious disease outbreak to affect park visitors. A nationwide measles outbreak in 2014-2015 was linked to two Disney theme parks in California, including Disneyland. – by Gerard Gallagher