Outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease Centered on Disneyland

Disneyland Park may be the center of a Legionnaire’s outbreak that has sickened 12 people in September. Legionnaire’s disease, which is caused by the Legionella bacteria, is a severe form of pneumonia, typically caused by inhaling the mist of water contaminated with the bacteria. It is not contagious.

The two cooling towers, in the center of the image above, sit roughly 100 feet behind the New Orleans Square station of the Disneyland Railroad. Cooling towers like these are used as part of large industrial air-conditioning systems, and emit water mist as they cool the water in the system.

According to Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, the towers were shut down after Disney was contacted by the county health care agency on October 27 about increased Legionnaires’ cases in Anaheim. “We conducted a review and learned that two cooling towers had elevated levels of Legionella bacteria,” Hymel said.

Of the 12 people who contracted the disease, nine had visited Disneyland. One is a Disneyland cast member. The other three had visited Anaheim, but not Disneyland specifically. So far this year, Orange County has reported 55 cases of Legionnaire’s disease.

“There is no known ongoing risk associated with this outbreak,” according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.  “These towers were treated with chemicals that destroy the bacteria and are currently shut down,” said Hymel in a statement Friday.

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