Disneyland’s official tagline is the “happiest place on Earth.” It’s the place referenced by every Super Bowl champion, a cultural landmark known across the world, and ultimately, a place for families to go for entertainment and fun. It is considered a place of magic for many, but unfortunately in October 2017, it also became a place of sickness when multiple cases of Legionnaires’ disease became associated with the park.
Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia not typically spread from person to person but rather through breathing in small droplets of water which contain the bacterium Legionella. This bacterium is able to multiply rapidly in water systems that have not been cleaned properly or on a regular basis. The most common water systems affected by this bacterium are mist machines, cooling machines, pools, and fountains.1 Since the water systems for these machines/objects are complex, it can be hard to correctly and completely clean every aspect of them, causing Legionella to grow and spread in an easier fashion.1,2
The pneumonia caused by Legionnaires’ disease generally appears two to ten days after exposure and will typically present with headache, muscle pains, chills, and a fever over 104°F. A few days after these symptoms appear, the disease may progress, causing symptoms such as cough, chest pain, trouble breathing, nausea/vomiting, and mental status changes. Not all individuals are at equal risk for development of the disease.1,3 Those with highest risk include smokers, people who have a weakened immune system, those with a pre-existing lung condition (such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD]), or who are aged 50 years or older.1 If the disease is left untreated, it can lead to potentially dangerous and life-threatening complications such as respiratory failure, septic shock, or acute kidney failure.1,3 Treatment typically consists of antibiotics as no vaccine is available. However, the most important aspect of the disease is that is it preventable through proper maintenance of the complex water systems, which serve as the growth medium for the bacteria [Read more…]