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Another person is dead and three more cases have been linked to the Disneyland Legionnaires’ disease outbreak, the Orange County Health Care Agency (HCA) announced Wednesday.
Of the current total of 15 cases, 11 involve people who visited Disneyland in September, and one involves a person who works there. Thirteen of the 15 patients were hospitalized.
The two people who died both had underlying health problems that made them more susceptible to complications. Neither individual had visited Disneyland. No additional information was made available on them.
Cooling towers shut down
Cooling towers at Disneyland were shut down after Dr. Eric Handler, the county’s Health Officer, issued an order Nov. 8 requiring Disney to take the towers out of service until the park can ensure they are free of contamination. Elevated levels of Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires’ disease, were found in the cooling towers after testing in October.
Recent water samples collected Nov. 2 and Nov. 6 were negative for the bacteria, according to Disneyland officials. The water in the towers was sanitized Nov. 4.
“Negative results mean that the towers do not pose a current ongoing risk for transmission of Legionella,” an HCA spokesperson said, adding that the agency is working with Disney on procedures to bring the towers back into operation.
Those procedures include making sure cleaning and sanitation are done according to guidelines set forth by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, and the Cooling Technology Institute. Disney must also provide a plan to clean, maintain and monitor all of its cooling towers for bacteria.
The cooling towers will reopen after all the criteria have been satisfied.
The HCA spokesperson said the majority of patients who visited Disneyland “indicates a pattern but does not identify that specific location as the common source of infection for all cases.”
Health officials continue to search for the source. They are visiting hotels, motels, and businesses that aren’t associated with the Disneyland Resort along the Harbor Boulevard corridor to see if they can find any connection to the illnesses.
The 15 cases were reported to the HCA between Sept. 27 and Nov. 15 and involved individuals whose ages ranged from 52 to 94 years old. All were infected before the cooling towers were shut down.
Who is at risk?
Anyone can get Legionnaires’ disease, but those at higher risk of infection include:
- people 50 or older
- heavy drinkers of alcohol
- people with chronic lung disease
- people with suppressed immune systems
- organ-transplant recipients
- people who are following specific drug protocols (for example, corticosteroids).