In a major PR disaster, Disneyland has been forced to shut down two cooling towers in their Southern California theme park after people who had visited came down with the Legionnaires’ disease.
At first, the Orange County Health Care Agency had seen that there was an increase in the number of cases of the bacterial lung infection. After further inspection, it found that all patients who had gotten the disease lived or had spent time near Anaheim in the past month. Furthermore, nine of them had visited Disneyland.
The Health Care Agency informed Disneyland of the findings on October 27th, and after testing the entertainment behemoth found that two cooling towers indeed had elevated levels of the Legionella bacteria.
Disneyland took the towers out of service on November 1st and disinfected them, putting them back into operation as from November 5th. But already 3 hours after putting them back on, the towers were turned off again as tests could not fully confirm yet they were free from contamination.
The towers, which are not in public areas, are used as evaporative systems that provide cooled water for various uses such as refrigeration. Disneyland does stress the towers were not used for drinking water.
Legionnaires’ disease is a form of bacterial pneumonia on the lungs. The signs and symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle pains, and headaches. In severe cases, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can also occur. The disease doesn't spread from person to person. Instead, the bacteria spread through a mist, such as from air-conditioning units for large buildings, as happened in this case.
This year, there have been already 55 reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Orange County. Furthermore, according to the healthcare agency, the number of cases has increased in recent years both in the county and nationally.