Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Anaheim, possible links to Disneyland

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Health officials are investigating 12 cases of Legionnaires' disease traced to Anaheim, California, including nine cases among visitors to Disneyland in September.

An additional three people who had been to Anaheim but not Disneyland got sick, said Jessica Good, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA).

Nine people contracted Legionnaires' disease after visiting Disneyland in September, a Disneyland spokesperson confirmed Saturday.

Legionnaires disease is a severe form of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria, sometimes found in water systems. People who develop symptoms may experience fever, cough, chills, shortness of breath, headaches, muscle aches and diarrhea.

The remaining three were Orange County residents who did not visit the park but lived or traveled in Anaheim.

Disneyland says it learned about the Legionnaires' cases in late October and shut down and disinfected two cooling towers that tested for high levels of the bacteria.

"These towers were treated with chemicals that destroy the bacteria and are now shut down", said Hymel.

"There is no known ongoing risk associated with this outbreak", the agency said in a statement. Outbreaks often happen in hot tubs, cooling towers and large air-conditioning systems that emit water vapor into the air.

The towers are in a backstage area near the New Orleans Square Train Station, a Disneyland Resort spokesperson said. One patient, who hadn't visited the park, has died, the agency said. Older people and those with health issues are particularly at risk. It is treated with antibiotics and hospital care, but one in 10 of those who contract the disease dies from infection.

After conducting routine testing a month earlier, Disneyland authorities detected elevated levels of Legionella in the two cooling towers and performed a thorough disinfection of the towers at the time. Disney took the towers out of service on November 1, performed more testing and disinfection, and brought them back into service on November 5.

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.