Swine Flu Returns to Walt Disney World

by Peggy Macdonald
Walt Disney World Recreation Examiner

July 16, 2009

Swine flu has not prevented guests from visiting Walt Disney World.

Walt Disney World had another brush with swine flu (H1N1) last week after a group of Mississippi tourists who had stayed at Disney's Pop Century Hotel were treated at Florida Hospital in Celebration, FL. The Mississippi group's chartered bus was en route to Mississippi when 12 to 14 members of the group began to experience flulike symptoms, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Although one member of the tour group informed the Orlando Sentinel that at least one case of swine flu was confirmed, the test for the H1N1 virus takes several days, and it is unlikely that the hospital could have received results of the test so quickly.

Guests who visit the Walt Disney World resort come into frequent contact with other guests and surfaces that tens of thousands of guests touch each day. The moment a guest enters a Disney theme park, the guest is asked to place his or her index finger on a touch pad to verify that the park ticket belongs to him or her. The touch pads are not cleaned after each use, and Disney does not provide hand sanitizer. There are no sinks in the immediate vicinity of the touch pads.

The Disney parks would decrease the potential spread of swine flu and other diseases by installing hand sanitizer stations at the entrance to the parks. Hand sanitizer should also be made available near the attractions, so guests can clean their hands after touching safety bars and other ride surfaces. Swine flu at Disney World first made headlines last spring, when a girl traveling from Mexico was diagnosed with the disease. Although the girl's family did not stay on Disney property, they attended the Disney parks.

The swine flu/H1N1 virus is spreading across Central Florida. At the University of Central Florida, ten cases of the virus have been confirmed to date. The infected exhibited mild symptoms and either recovered fully or are currently being treated for the disease.

Swine flu treatment:

Swine flu has not led to decreased attendance at Walt Disney World's theme parks. Relatively few people have died from the disease in the United States. According to physician Robert Walton, M.D., when otherwise healthy patients receive immediate treatment with antiviral medication upon the first sign of infection, their chances of recovery are strong.

Swine flu prevention tips:

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Ideally you should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.

Carry hand sanitizer for use inside the parks. You will undoubtedly come into contact with door handles, counters, and other surfaces that could be contaminated with germs. Tens of thousands of park guests and employees touch these surfaces daily.

Be prepared and keep your hands clean.

Refrain from touching your mouth, eyes, or nose in order to prevent the spread of germs. Make sure you wash your hands before eating or placing any objects in your mouth.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough. Dispose of the tissue in the trash and wash your hands after sneezing or coughing.

Do not travel if you are sick. Instead call a doctor to discuss your symptoms and potential treatment.