Photo by: Kateryna Kon via Shutterstock
Two cooling towers at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim have been shut down after several reported cases of Legionnaires' disease were reported with the bacteria having been found in the said towers.The bacteria infected a total of 12 people including nine people who visited the theme park in September, and three others who were residents of the Orange County.
"There is no known ongoing risk associated with this outbreak," stated the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Dr.Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer for Walk Disney Parks and Resorts, said that the Orange Health Care Agency notified them about the increasing cases of Legionnaires' in Anaheim.After a review, they learned that the two cooling towers had elevated levels of the disease-causing bacteria.The towers had been turned off after being treated with chemicals that destroyed the bacteria.
Legionnaires ' Disease
Legionnaire's disease is a respiratory infection caused by the bacteria Legionella.Common symptoms include a cough, shortness of breath, muscle pains, high fever, and headaches.Other clinical presentations of the disease include bloody sputum, appetite loss, ataxia or loss of coordination, diarrhea, vomiting, and abnormal laboratory results of liver and kidney functions.
In natural environments, the Legionella bacteria grow in water and establish a symbiotic relationship with amoebas.In city dwellings, contaminated water can come from central air conditioning systems found in establishments such as hotels, hospitals, and offices.Other places where the bacteria can grow include cooling towers, evaporative coolers, humidifiers, hot water systems, showers, and ice-making machines.
People catch the bacteria by breathing water droplets from water sources contaminated with Legionella.In uncommon cases, some people can get the disease by aspiration of drinking water, or when the water goes into the windpipe and lungs instead of the digestive tract.Car and home air conditioning systems do not use water, thus cannot grow in those environments.
Generally, Legionnaires' disease is not spread by humans.But in rare cases, the disease may spread from person to person, according to a study published in February 2016.The study suggested that a 74-year-old female patient who was previously healthy may have contracted the infection from her severely ill son whom she cared for.The study also noted factors that contributed to the possibility of person-to-person transmission such as the severity of the respiratory symptoms, very close contact with the patient, and the area's lack of ventilation.
Legionella cannot infect most people who are healthy.People who got sick from the infection are likely subject to the following risk factors, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Age of 50 and above.
- History of tobacco smoking.
- Chronic lung disease, such as emphysema.
- Compromised or weakened immune system, including the effects of immunosuppressant drugs.
- Any underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, liver and kidney failure.
Untreated Legionnaire's disease can lead to a number of life-threatening complications, according to the Mayo Clinic.
1.Failure of the respiratory system: The infection can weaken your lungs and if that happens, the lungs will not be able to provide your body the oxygen it needs and remove the carbon dioxide from your blood.
2.Septic shock: A severe and sudden drop in your blood pressure causes septic shock.That drop in the blood pressure reduces the blood flow to vital organs including the brain and the kidneys.When this happens, the heart attempts to compensate by increasing the volume of blood pumped.However, the heart will eventually weaken from the extra effort that leads to further reduction of the blood flow.
3.Acute kidney failure: It is a sudden loss of your kidney's ability to filter waste products from your blood.If your kidneys fail in this vital function, waste products in your body will rise to dangerous levels.
Treatment of Legionnaires' Disease
Antibiotics are the most common method used to treat Legionnaires' disease.Macrolides or azithromycin and quinolones like ciprofloxacin and levofloxacin are the most effective antibiotic classes used by doctors to treat Legionella infection.Other antibiotics that can be used include tetracycline, doxycycline, minocycline, and trimethoprim or sulfamethoxazole.The antibiotic erythromycin has been replaced by other antibiotics to treat Legionnaires' because of its lesser potency against the bacteria and higher toxic effects than other medications.
Since there is no vaccine against Legionella, the best way to avoid outbreaks is through preventive measures.Legionella bacteria grow best in warm waters including hot tubs, and the chlorine in hot tubs loses effectiveness to disinfect germs because of the warm water temperature.Hot tubs must be cleaned regularly based on the manufacturer's instructions, and disinfectant applied afterward to keep them germ-free.
- Survivors of Legionnaire's disease outbreaks have been found to experience persistent fatigue, neurological symptoms, and neuromuscular problems even after an outbreak, according to a study in 2002.
- About one out of every ten people sick from Legionnaires' will die.
- Legionella bacteria is naturally found in freshwater environments.