Disneyland Guests Contracted Legionnaires' Disease, But What Is It?

Photo: David McNew/Getty Images.
Over the weekend, Disneyland announced that it shut down a pair of cooling towers after 12 people contracted Legionnaires' disease, which can occur after contact with contaminated water or mist.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the Orange County Health Care Agency detected Legionnaires' disease in nine people who had visited the park back from September 12 to 27. The three additional people who contracted the disease didn't visit Disneyland, but did work or travel to Anaheim, where the park is located.
Ten of the 12 people were hospitalized and one did pass away, though the L.A. Times mentions that the person who died had additional health issues. One of the affected patients is a Disneyland employee. As for the towers, they're located near the New Orleans Square train station and situated over 100 feet from anywhere that guests actually go, in what Disneyland considers a "backstage" area, Disneyland Resort spokeswoman Suzi Brown told the Times.
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Disneyland released an official statement on the matter. "Legionnaires' disease is not contagious, cannot be transmitted person to person, and comes from a bacteria that is naturally in the environment, usually in water," it reads. "It can become a health concern if it grows and spreads in human-made water systems and then comes in contact with vulnerable persons who inhale small droplets of contaminated water. Most people who are exposed to the bacteria do not become ill."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention alerted county authorities to the outbreak after seeing a cluster of Legionnaires' disease in such close proximity. Upon further investigation, Disneyland became the common thread between the different patients. The cooling towers are still not in operation and only briefly came back on as part of the disinfection process on November 5.
Dr. Pamela Hymel, MD, MPH, FACOEM, chief medical officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, explained that the symptoms of Legionnaires' disease include "high fever, chills, and a cough" that can present two to 10 days after breathing in the bacteria. It is usually treatable with antibiotics and, according to the Times, the most at-risk group includes "people older than 50 with weakened immune systems or chronic lung diseases." After a third-party agency tested the water and saw an elevated level of Legionella bacteria, Disneyland shut down the cooling towers and the park ensures that there is no further risk to visitors.
Disney directed inquiries to Hymel's statement on the Disney Parks Blog, but anyone looking to find out more can also visit the CDC's site on Legionnaires' disease.
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