What You Need To Know About The Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak At Disneyland

Disneyland shut down two cooling towers after people were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease in southern California, the theme park resort said in a recent blog post.

If you visited the park between Sept. 12 and Sept. 27, you may have been exposed to the contaminated water droplets—more than the cool-off you bargained for.

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Getty Images | David McNew

12 People Sickened In Anaheim

According to the Orange County Register, 12 people who live in or visited the Anaheim area contracted the serious form of bacterial pneumonia in September.

Nine of them had been at Disneyland, where one person works in the park as a cast member. Another person who contracted the disease has died; however, that person had not visited Disneyland during the affected period and already had additional health concerns. All of those affected were between the ages of 52 and 94, CNN reported.

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Flickr | aprilskiver

What Is Legionnaires’ Disease?

Legionnaires’ disease bacteria is found naturally in lakes and streams. But “it can become a health concern when it grows and spreads in human-made water systems,” according to the Centers for Disease Control. That means complex systems like “water used in hospitals, hotels and cruise ships” are often prone to outbreaks, whether it’s from water that runs in a shower, swirls in a hot tub or sprays in a fountain. The disease is airborne, so it needs to be inhaled to be contracted.

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Flickr | Pulmonary Pathology

The CDC says “that contaminated water then has to spread in droplets small enough for people to breathe in.” However, it’s important to note that the disease is not contagious between people. Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, headache and fever.

The disease is most likely to affect those whose immunes systems are already weak, and it can be treated with antibiotics.

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Flickr | oliver.dodd

The name comes from a 1976 outbreak that occurred during an American Legion conference at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia that sickened 182 people and killed 29.

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Flickr | Payton Chung

Disneyland’s Response

In a blog post, Disney Parks’ chief medical officer Dr. Pamela Hymel explained that the park took prompt and voluntary action after hearing from the Orange County Health Care Agency about the Legionnaires’ cases:

“We reviewed our water quality testing data, including testing performed by our third-party water quality maintenance contractor, and learned that two cooling towers had elevated levels of Legionella bacteria. These towers were treated with chemicals that destroy the bacteria and are currently shut down to further eliminate any ongoing concern.”

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Flickr | Sean MacEntee

Is There Still A Concern?

So is it safe to return to Disneyland if you have an upcoming trip planned? Experts say you shouldn’t be concerned.

“To date, no additional Legionella cases have been identified with potential exposure in Anaheim after September,” Jessica Good, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA), told CNN.

And Dr. Hymel’s blog post also says the OCHCA “indicated there is no longer any known risk associated with our facilities.”

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Getty Images | Handout