Twelve cases of Legionnaires disease have been found in recent Disneyland visitors. The outbreak was traced to two cooling towers contaminated with the bacteria.
Legionnaires is a severe form of pneumonia, caused by exposure to contaminated water, or mist. It is contracting by inhaling the microscopic water droplets that contain the bacteria and develops two to ten days after exposure. Outbreaks have been linked to a variety of water sources: hot tubs, swimming pools, air conditioners, and other water systems in large buildings. It is treatable via antibiotics (while they still work anyway), but can lead to life-threatening complications and may be fatal. People with weakened immune systems are especially at risk.
Meanwhile, Disney has shut down the contaminated cooling towers and treated them with chemicals to destroy the bacteria. A bit of an ominous uptick in Legionnaires has been recorded this year. According to the LA Times:
Orange County has recorded more than 55 cases of the disease this year and has seen the number of cases jump in recent years. A similar upward trend has been seen nationally and elsewhere in Southern California, according to the healthcare agency, though what’s causing that is unclear.
That’s the question many in Puerto Rico still have. Safe drinking water is more widely available now, but less so for those in more remote mountainous areas. From the Miami Herald:
Although government officials say they’ve distributed water purification tablets and bottled water throughout the island, by late October there were still places where residents said the help hadn’t arrived.
The mountainous area outside Utuado in central Puerto Rico was one of those places. Gambo Rodríguez and his family said they hadn’t gotten any bottled water or purification tablets from the government and couldn’t afford to buy their own.
Leptospirosis, a bacterial disease spread through contact with contaminated water, is a concern. There have been at least 18 confirmed cases, and are likely more that haven’t been accounted for in remote areas.
In the town of Humacao on the eastern edge of the island, local officials were still concerned about getting clean drinking water to the surrounding area in late October.
“I have 58,000 inhabitants and only one truck to take water to the upper areas,” said Ramon Díaz, the assistant director of the local emergency management center. Díaz was meeting with a water and sanitation expert from the nonprofit Oxfam, which was trying to identify the nearby areas in most desperate need of water purification systems.
“Which ones should we prioritize?” water expert Andrea Chaves Arana asked, listing off the names of several places.
“All of them, because they don’t have water,” Díaz responded.