Disneyland shuts down cooling towers following Legionnaire's cases among guests

Visitors ride the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride at Disneyland in Anaheim Calif. in 2015

Nine cases of Legionnaires' disease have been diagnosed among Disneyland visitors in recent months and the Disneyland Resort has closed two backstage cooling towers located behind New Orleans Square.

County health officials say 12 people contracted the lung disease, including one Disneyland employee, with one person who had not visited the park ultimately dying.

"Since that time, HCA staff have visited Park properties and worked with Disney to identify potential sources of Legionella", said Jessica Good, spokeswoman for the Orange County Health Agency. According to health officials, the person who died in connection to the Disneyland outbreak had additional health issues.

"There is no known ongoing risk associated with this outbreak", the agency said in a statement. Of that total, nine had visited the park in September, and the remainder lived or traveled in Anaheim.

Legionnaires' is a severe lung infection caused by exposure to contaminated water or mist. It can become a health concern when it grows and spreads in human-made water systems like showers and faucets, cooling towers, decorative fountains and water features and so on.

In a statement, Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said Disneyland learned about the Legionnaires' cases on October 27.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified county authorities about three weeks ago of several cases of the disease among people who had traveled to Orange County in September.

On Tuesday, Disney took the towers down again because the health agency ordered them to verify they were free of the Legionella contamination.

Legionnaires' disease is a progressive pneumonia with a 2-10 day incubation period.

The illness can be treated with antibiotics and hospital care, but about 10 percent of people who get it die from the infection.

People ages 50 or older, or those with weakened immune systems, are most at risk for the illness.

There have been 55 reports of Legionella disease in Orange County residents through October of 2017; 53 were reported for the entire year of 2016; and 33 in 2015, according to Good.

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