Disney prepares to fight Zika in Walt Disney World

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For many years, Disney has had a mosquito-control program in place on property, but now with the very possible threat of Zika in Walt Disney World, Disney is extending the program to directly protect guests. Although rather undocumented, Walt Disney World has many systems in place to reduce the number of mosquitos on the forty-three square miles. The Ready Creek Improvement District has written a few articles on the control methods used, including natural mosquito-eaters (birds, other insects, etc) and insecticides.

Disney is no stranger to mosquito control. There is a very in-depth mosquito control method in place at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, in the Bahamas. One of the big strategies at Castaway Cay, including the distribution of insecticide and mosquito-eating predators, is keeping water moving around the property. Warm, stagnant water is where mosquitos breed best. Through the use of fountains and boats, a large number of mosquitos never come to fruition to begin with. This method is much more difficult to implement in Walt Disney World due to the sheer size of the property and the nature of the land (lots of swamps). With the future potential for Zika-carrying mosquitos make their way to areas near Walt Disney World, the company is stepping up their game.

If reducing the amount of stagnant water on property is the goal, one place comes to mind pretty quickly: River Country. Walt Disney World’s first water park has been rotting in disrepair for over a decade. While many parts of the water park are technically connected to Bay Lake (one of the many reasons this park originally closed), other areas are closed off and home to warm, stagnant water. One of these areas is the kidney-shaped pool: Upstream Plunge.

River Country Map - Zika in Walt Disney World
©The Walt Disney Company

This week, the Orlando Sentinel broke word that Disney is to drain and fill River Country’s Upstream Plunge. While many guests hoped in anticipation for the announcement of something new coming to the area once home to Walt Disney World’s best waterpark, it appears the true motivation for filling a pool that has remained unmaintained for 15 years has less to do with the development of the land and more to do with the further preventing of mosquitos in Walt Disney World. By the looks of this announcement, Walt Disney World is stepping up on the mosquito control to a level comparable with Castaway Cay, extending to eliminating potential breeding areas for the insect.

While Walt Disney World is getting serious on its own mosquito control methods property-wide, Disney is also working on mosquito control at a theme park guest level. Starting August 29th, free mosquito-repellant is now being offered to guests at all Walt Disney World parks and resort hotels. Free to both the guests and cast members, this is yet another line of protection between Walt Disney World, mosquitos, and potentially Zika. On top of the free spray, Disney is also providing informational pamphlets on mosquito control advice to all guests arriving to the Walt Disney World theme parks via car. Disney has also published an FAQ online on how to prevent Zika in Walt Disney World and also made this statement reassuring guests:

“At this time, the Florida Department of Health has reported that there are no reported cases of active transmissions of the Zika virus in the Orlando area and counties surrounding Walt Disney World Resort.”
-Disney

Speaking of the potential for Zika in Walt Disney World sometime in the near future, there is hope. Although several hundred cases of Zika have been reported throughout the United States, only 29 of those cases where vector-borne. In layman’s terms, only 29 people who have contracted Zika in the US received it from local mosquitos or others who received it from local mosquitos. While this does seem pretty optimistic in contrast to the 8,746 vector-borne transmission cases in Puerto Rico so far, that doesn’t discount the severity of the potential risk in the rest of the state and even country or world. This map shows cases by state and also details areas where Zika can be contracted locally (just Miami as of 9/1/16).

CDC Current US Zika Map (8/31/16)
©Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

That’s the latest on Disney’s mosquito-prevention steps here in Walt Disney World. Stepping up with helping to provide free bug spray on top of all of the property-wide work being conducted to lower mosquito counts really shows Disney’s cutting no cost for the safety for the guests. Zika in Walt Disney World, a magical kingdom running rampant with infected mosquitos…let’s keep this from coming to fruition. We’ll leave you with a word of advice for those of you going to the most magical place on Earth sometime soon: don’t pass up on the free mosquito-repellant! Stay Safe and Have a Magical Day! 😀

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