Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Anaheim, possible links to Disneyland

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Eight guests and one worker at Disneyland have contracted Legionnaires' disease, prompting the Anaheim, Calif., theme park to close a pair of cooling towers.

Orange County health experts are investigating 12 cases of Legionnaires' disease among people who live in or visited the Anaheim area in September. By the end of October, Disneyland learned of the cases. One person, who had not visited Disneyland, has died, the Orange County Register reported.

According to the LA Times, the Orange County Health Care Agency, Disney reported on November 3rd that routine testing had detected elevated levels of the bacteria when the towers were taken out of service on November 1st for disinfection.

Legionnaire's Disease is a serious lung infection most often caused by inhaling microscopic water droplets tainted by the bacteria legionella.

The disease is caused by the bacterium Legionella pneumophila, found in both potable and nonpotable water systems.

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Although the Health Care Agency sent alerts to medical providers and other public health departments to help identify other people who have contracted Legionnaire's disease, the agency issued no public press releases or statements because "there was no known, ongoing risk associated with this event", Good said.

The county agency issued an order November 8 requiring Disney to take the towers out of service until they are shown to be free from contamination. "We conducted a review and learned that two cooling towers had elevated levels of Legionella bacteria". The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified county officials of the outbreak among people who had traveled to Orange County. "These towers were treated with chemicals that destroy the bacteria and are now shut down".

According to the health agency, on November 3 Disney reported that routine testing detected elevated levels of Legionella pneumophila in two cooling towers a month earlier, and the towers had been disinfected.

It takes 2 to 10 days for symptoms of Legionnaires' disease to appear. It is not contagious from person to person. Ten of the 12 people were hospitalized. Those at higher risk include people over the age of 50 with weak immune systems or lung problems.

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