ANAHEIM (CBSLA/AP) — Orange County Health Care Agency officials were investigating other sources Thursday after the Legionella infection was linked to nearly a dozen visitors to Disneyland, authorities said. But “The Happiest Place On Earth” may not be the only source of an outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease after all.
Eleven of the 15 people who have contracted the disease visited Disneyland in September, where investigators believed two
cooling towers thought to be the principal source are located. The towers have since tested negative for the bacteria.
Those who are ill range in age from 52 to 94 years old.
Three new cases were reported Wednesday, two of which had made a recent visit to Disneyland.
But officials are also focusing on the four patients who didn’t visit the park as they track the source of the outbreak.
“It’s too early to point fingers at Disneyland for those four people,” said Sanjay Mohanty, a UCLA environmental engineering professor who studies water systems.
The disease can be spread through inhaling droplets from contaminated water sources. While many people have no symptoms, it can cause serious pneumonia and prove dangerous to those with lung or immune system problems.
Disneyland said it learned about the Legionnaires’ cases on Oct. 27 and shut down and disinfected the cooling towers. Water samples taken last week from the towers, which are part of air-conditioning systems, tested negative for the bacteria, officials at the theme park said Wednesday.
“Negative results mean that the towers do not pose a current ongoing risk for transmission of Legionella,” said Jessica Good, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Health Care Agency. Good told the Orange County Register the agency is working with Disney on procedures to bring the towers back into operation.
Legionella is a bacteria that grows naturally in lakes and streams. When high concentrations grow in man-made water systems, such as air conditioners and plumbing, some people develop pneumonia after breathing in contaminated vapor.
Cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been increasing nationwide and in California in recent years, and officials often struggle to identify where the infections originate, the Times said.
Thirteen out of the 15 patients were hospitalized and two, who had additional health issues, died. Neither individual who died visited Disneyland, according to the Register.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)