ANAHEIM (KGTV) - Orange County health officials confirmed Wednesday three additional cases of Legionnaire's disease in the Anaheim area this year.
Two of those cases were in individuals who visited Disneyland Park in September. In total, there have been 15 cases of the disease, 11 of those cases in people who visited the park this year, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA).
"All cases identified to date became infected with Legionella prior to [Nov. 7, 2017] when the cooling towers were taken out of operation at the Disneyland Park," an OCHCA spokesperson Jessica Good said in an email.
Disneyland shut down two cooling towers, which act as large air conditioners for the park, in response to the reported cases.
OCHCA believes those who have reported becoming ill with the disease were exposed in late August or early September to late October this year.
The Legionnaire's patients range in age from 52 to 94. Two of the 15 people infected had additional health issues and died, Good said. Neither of those victims had visited Disneyland.
According to OCHCA, Disneyland was identified as a common location in some of the reported cases in late October. The park's issue is believed to have stemmed from elevated levels of Legionella found in the identified cooling towers:
- "On October 27, 2017, when the Disneyland Park was identified as a common location of eight (8) cases, HCA contacted the Disney organization and set up site visits at the Park to assess potential sources. Since that time, HCA staff have visited Park properties and worked with Disney to identify potential sources of Legionella.
- "On November 3, 2017, Disney reported to HCA that records provided by a contractor indicated that (as part of their quarterly, routine testing) elevated levels of Legionella had been identified in 2/18 cooling towers on October 2, 2017, and treated/disinfected by the contractor on October 4, 2017. Neither Disney nor the contractor would have been aware of the human cases at that time.
- "On November 1, 2017, Disney had the towers taken out of service. They report having performed subsequent testing and disinfection and brought the towers back into service November 5, 2017. Test results will not be known for approximately 10-14 days."
The towers were then ordered to be taken out of service on Nov. 7 until county health officials deemed them safe.
According to Good, there is no known ongoing risk associated with the outbreak.
Legionella bacteria can cause a respiratory illness and pneumonia, especially in older individuals with prior health conditions.Typical sources of the bacteria are improperly sanitized spas, indoor and outdoor fountains, showers, and cooling towers - used commonly as part of air conditioning systems in large spaces.
Symptoms generally develop within 2 to 10 days of exposure and include fever, chills, muscle aches, and headaches. The infection is not spread person to person and those with the disease are not considered infectious.
Orange County residents have reported 59 cases of Legionella through Nov. 15, 2017, compared to 57 for all of 2016 and 33 in 2015.