Disney theme parks generally make people think of magic and whimsy, not old-time diseases. But a handful of recent visitors to Disney’s Anaheim, California outpost have been treated for a rare form of pneumonia called Legionnaire’s disease after being exposed to tainted water, forcing the park to close two of their cooling towers.
Orange County officials shut down the two water towers after nine visitors to the park, all between the ages of 52 and 94, ended up in the hospital with the illness, according to CNN. All of the guests were exposed during visits in September of this year, and all were successfully treated. There were three additional cases of Legionnaire’s in people who did not visit the park but had spent time in Anaheim; one of those three had additional health issues and died.
Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, told CNN that when OC public health officials contacted the park on October 27, her department investigated. “We conducted a review and learned that two cooling towers had elevated levels of Legionella bacteria,” Hymel said.
“These towers were treated with chemicals that destroy the bacteria and are currently shut down. We have proactively shared this information with OCHCA, and given our actions, they have indicated there is no longer any known risk associated with our facilities.”
Legionnaire’s disease is a rare form of pneumonia caused by a bacteria called Legionella pneumophila. Per the CDC, it gets its name from the first noted cases of the disease, which were spotted in 1976, when an outbreak occurred at a Philadelphia convention of the America Legion. While not contagious, it is typically spread when people inhale the bacteria from a heating or cooling system, or a mist of water.
As for the Anaheim outbreak, OCHCA spokesperson Jennifer Good told CNN that “to date, no additional Legionella cases have been identified with potential exposure in Anaheim after September.”
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(Photo via Frazer Harrison/Getty)