Theme parks face impact from potential epidemic

April 28, 2009, 2:08 PM · Turn on the cable news stations and it's all swine flu, all the time. The European Union is advising Europeans against travel to areas of Mexico and the United States affected, including Southern California. (Though, from a theme park perspective, relatively few Europeans visit SoCal's theme parks, opting for the Orlando-area parks such as Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando instead.)

Six Flags has closed indoor rides and shows at its Six Flags Mexico theme park in Mexico City, as much of that metropolis closes down to prevent the spread of the virus.

But the big impact to the theme park industry would be the virus emerging in Orlando. And authorities there are awaiting test results on a possible case. A local TV station reported that a tourists from Mexico visiting Walt Disney World was infected. But Florida Hospital officials denied that report, saying that they were awaiting test results and that the case might be one of "normal" flu.

Pardon me for questioning the hype, but I wonder why everyone is getting so worked up about a few dozen cases of "swine" flu, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 99 people, on average, die from the flu in the United States a day. It's not like dozens of deaths from the flu is anything new. This is a nasty illness, well worthy of respect and utmost prevention at all times, not just when cable TV talking heads obsess over it.

Now, I shall go wash my hands.

Update (4/30): Never mind. This strain appears less severe that the "normal" flu.

Replies (32)

April 28, 2009 at 3:03 PM · Ridiculous! If anyone buys into this type of hyperbole, I will be shocked. And no one better come knocking on the door of my hermetically sealed bubble asking for my opinion, either! Flu Germs. Nonsense!
April 28, 2009 at 3:07 PM · I agree, people are blowing this out of proportion. Yeah, people should be worried about it a bit, but I do not think people should change their theme park plans. Six Flags Mexico? Probably. Disney? Probably not!
April 28, 2009 at 3:14 PM · Shhhhhhhhhhh ....
April 28, 2009 at 3:21 PM · The problem is that we are talking about healthy adults ages 20-40 dying of flu. This is definitely not normal. Flu victims are normally the elderly, the very young and those with debilitated conditions in the first place. The "good thing" about this disease so far is that it seems to have a very small incubation period. This seriously restricts the speed that it can spread.

I am a foreigner with a family vaccation scheduled for Orlando in June and I must confess that I am waiting to see how this unfolds, but have seriously considered cancelling but it's too soon to decide. The important thing now is to wait and see, do not panic, but acknowledge that there is an ongoing threat to public health.

April 28, 2009 at 3:44 PM · I agree, it's just like how in past years they've been worrying about the bird flu-? where's that happening at? but nobody is dying from the swine flu except for in mexico where im not sure about this but dont they have worse healthcare down there? well anyways hopefully this doesnt get to a deadly level,which i dont think it will, because 3 of the 60 that have the disease live in my county and that number is rising.
by the way i live in lorain county which is the county directly east of erie county and the city of sandusky which is, of course, where cedar point is. so it could possibly affect cedar point if this disease is going around still by the time may 16th(opening day) rolls around.
April 28, 2009 at 5:41 PM · To the anonymous poster who wrote: "The problem is that we are talking about healthy adults ages 20-40 dying of flu."

Did ya read Robert's piece? Did you see the reference from the CDC about how many people die of flu everyday?

Calm down!

April 28, 2009 at 6:52 PM · I'm paying attention to the swine flu story. I can't say that I'm oblivious to the story, however the media has a tendency to spin things way out of control. It's gotten to the point where I have a hard time believing some of this stuff, however dangerous it may be. Could this be a highly dangerous situation? possibly. Could it be the next summer scare story? possibly. It seems that every year a story that comes out that scares the general public. Remember the year after Katrina? We were supposed to have the worst hurricane season ever. Remember the summer of sharks? Y2K?

I can't completely ignore this story, however I'm struggling to take it as seriously as they are reporting it. Media scare stories are becoming instances of the boy who cried wolf. I just hope that they continue to be blown out of proportion as opposed to being real.

There is a good possibility that travel could be affected by this whole thing.

April 28, 2009 at 7:09 PM · People are dying in Mexico, because, quite frankly.. Their health care is a ball of crap! There have been NO deaths in the United States from the Swine Flu, and cases that have been reported have been said to have the EXACT SAME symptoms as that of the regular flu!

Gotta love this mass hysteria bullcrap.

April 28, 2009 at 9:24 PM · We all should know the swine flu is being spread by the killer bees from Africa that were unleashed by the Y2K bug. Get your mass media dysfunctions and hysteria in order.
April 28, 2009 at 9:33 PM · Hey, I think flu needs to be taken seriously... all the time. People should be able to stay home from work and school whenever they are contagious, and not just during media frenzies.

But this is just nuts. Laurie went to pick up a burrito and nachos for our dinner tonight, and when she walked into the normally popular restaurant, she saw it was deserted. No customers. She mentioned that to the guy behind the counter, and he replied:

"Ever since the swine flu news, no one wants to eat in a Mexican restaurant anymore."


This. Is. Insane.

April 29, 2009 at 3:07 AM · Three words, folks:

"Wash your hands."

Thank you, come again.

April 29, 2009 at 3:44 AM · this flu is very serious. it can become a global problem. yes mexico has no health care whatsoever, but nobody has built an immunity to this flu which is the biggest scare. its something new and unusual. but if we aren't careful, it could become worse.
April 29, 2009 at 7:36 AM · I am a little concerned since we are going to Disney May 9th for a week…. I think I will carry a bottle of Purell and clean our hands after each ride….
About 36,000 die from the common flu every year. Many elderly and folks with compromised immune systems…..

But as Emilio Zapata once said - “It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees” Hey wasn’t he Mexican…

This is not an airborne virus so - Why wear a mask? Shrug Shoulders….

April 29, 2009 at 9:03 AM · lol, makes me laugh. Britain is saying don't go to US or Mexico unless its absolutely required.
Here's the thing.

Brits don't care about what they are told.
Brits book their vacations a year or two in advance, and even for the ones who get a last minute bargain, they aren't going to care about something like that.

We;ve dealt with Mad Cow Disease, passed mountains of burning cows, dealt with having to drive through Disinfectant pools if we are heading into rural areas and wildlife parks.

Its just not something that will bother them/us.

So this little scare will prob affect 0.00000001% of the Brit tourist population!

Can't say other European countries aren't a little more paranoid, but considering the UK makes up a HUGE number of tourists in the summer months, it won't affect it at all!

Anyhoo, isn't Swine Flu like Man Flu for Pigs?

Not really a bad deal but they'll whine about it for a bit.

Happy Travels, and be safe out there :)

April 29, 2009 at 10:14 AM · LOL I think you are right about us Brits Gareth, a bit of pig flu won't stop us, I'm going in September, we are booking it in a couple of weeks and it's not stopping us, I'd rather catch it after 2 weeks in Orlando than just staying at home and catching it there!!!
April 29, 2009 at 10:22 AM · It was just reported at that "In Orlando, Fla., the chief medical officer at Florida Hospital Loran Hauck indicated the flu has spread to a tourist who visiting the crowded Disney World. A case was diagnosed here in Orlando today on a tourist from Mexico who came to Disney attractions two days ago to visit."
April 29, 2009 at 10:38 AM · If it doesn't get worse, it will just have been hype. But the fear is that if everybody doesn't take it seriously, it could spread quickly, it's a particularly nasty flu for which we don't have a vaccine, and we don't want 10s of thousands of people dying on us.

Unfortunately, the government is playing a "it's really bad/don't worry about it" game right now, and you end up with, as someone else said, empty mexican restaurants because we are ignorant and nobody is willing to step up and be an authority to say "this is what you should and shouldn't do."

I wouldn't think of a theme park as a place I'd be concerned about picking up a flu bug, unless I was stuck in a line with people who were coughing.

Cleaning your hands after each ride is a good idea, probably something we should all do all the time, but I never do. I wouldn't be travelling to Mexico right now, but even if a million people were infected there (it isn't NEARLY that bad), that would still give you only a 1 in 100 chance that a person you ran into would be infected.

Frankly, I think the risk of a major accident on a theme park ride is greater than the risk of catching the flu at the theme park. And both are less than the chance of having a car accident on the way.

But people are paranoid about risks they can't control, and the "swine flu" is that kind of risk.

BTW, do we have good numbers yet on how the parks are doing on attendance, so that we could next month compare to see if the swine flu scare changed the numbers? I've seen anecdotal remarks of huge crowds, but I've also read about people going to parks and just jumping on rides at will.

April 29, 2009 at 11:21 AM · 36000 people die every year from the "regular" flu. So, I don't worry . I wash my hands all the time anyway.
April 29, 2009 at 12:03 PM ·, that was an old report - the one that the Sentinel refuted, saying that the swine flu test wasn't complete yet.
April 29, 2009 at 12:10 PM · Charles, I think your overexaggarating a little bit, there is a much better chance of catching the flu than a major accident. An average of 3 people die each year in theme park accidents, im sure a lot more people get the flu there...
April 29, 2009 at 4:48 PM · Regarding the Orlando RUMOR.

As of this writing (7:45 PM EST) There has been ABSOLUTELY NO CONFIRMATION that the person in Orlando has any illness related to the worldwide concern.

Further (and this is the REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT PART) since that person has sought treatment there have been ABSOLUTELY NO additional reports of others complaining about what might be a related illness.

Now go wash your hands.

April 29, 2009 at 6:30 PM · I think that the media is causing mass hysteria just to get attention and money. And I'll let you in on a little secret: according to my local radio station, the media is lying about the number of deaths due to swine flu. They claim the number is in the 150s. According to local radio, the actual death toll is a mere 7.
April 29, 2009 at 8:23 PM · I live about a mile away from the Mexican border and things are getting serious over there. Soccer games are played with no one in the stands and movie theaters are closed. Whats worse is the hysteria has also crossed the river into Texas as all high school sports are being put on hold for a week. This is crazy. I'm going to Disneyland in about two weeks and I'm hoping it doesn't close down because of this.
April 29, 2009 at 10:02 PM · Disneyland won't close, but the dolls in the new "Small World" are being fitted with little surgical masks.
April 29, 2009 at 10:04 PM · (I bet some sucker actually will believe that comment.)
April 30, 2009 at 1:51 AM · I agree that the media frenzy isn't helpful and I'm amazed at the reaction of a few idiots ( like the ones Robert spoke of avoiding Mexican restaurants....unbelievable ).

However any virus that has a potential to become level 5 pandemic needs to be taken seriously. That does not mean overreacting but it does mean monitoring the situation to see how it's developing.

Today ( 29th April ) it has been elevated to level 4. I think the health authorities in the UK are simply advising that we should be cautious until the trend arrests and then reverses.

The problem ,as they see it, is that the incubation period for the virus exceeds the speedy transatlantic flights so "carriers" won't know if they have it until they have travelled. Which is too late if it becomes an air borne transmission.

In a few days we'll be more aware of the threat that it poses. Until then neither those already at panic stations or those dismissing it out of hand are correct.

Calm down. Be patient and don't overreact ...either way.

April 30, 2009 at 3:48 AM · I don't think that this strain has any potential to become a serious pandemic. And I don't think it deserves a level 5 from the WHO. They probably only declared that to gain the funding to stop the little progress the virus has made around the world and still have a crapload left over.
April 30, 2009 at 6:58 AM · More Disney Tourists Report Flu Like Symptoms""


April 30, 2009 at 8:42 AM · I'm set to go to Disney World in July. I am concerned
and will continue to monitor the situation. At the moment there are 8 confirmed cases in the UK and 0 in Orlando. However I will be taking anti-bacterial hand wipes for use before meals and after rides.

Live for the moment.

P.S I hope when I get there Mickey is not wearing a mask.

Family Guy, UK.

April 30, 2009 at 9:35 AM · Brandon S: You are right, that was a very unintelligible statement. I was thinking "swine flu", and that you were more likely to have an accident going to the park than to get the swine flu, but I said "flu". And yes, there are very few serious accidents at theme parks.

I see that a group of students who want to a band concert at WDW in florida are being tested for the flu, hopefully they will come up negative, but just saying they are being tested could well cause problems for the Florida parks.

And of course, having the Vice President (Biden) go on national TV and tell everybody he wouldn't get in a plane or a subway or go ANYWHERE where you have to be in close proximity to others won't help much -- we are much better off when they keep Mr. "foot-in-mouth" hidden from the public :-)

We are in the panic stage right now. Eventually, the "panic people" will either be proven right, or proven wrong. Misinformation is rampant (not necessarily WRONG, just unsupported information). For example, everybody talks about "hundreds" of deaths in Mexico, but OFFICIALLY, there are only 7 (yes, SEVEN) confirmed deaths directly related to the Swine Flu.

Now, maybe they will confirm a lot more of those deaths were flu later, but if they don't, people will still be talking about hundreds of deaths years from now.

I would certainly keep my distance from people who look ill, and I would wash my hands, and if somebody coughed near me I might even move, but with 300 million people in this country, and a few hundred cases of the flu, the chance of me running into anybody who has it is miniscule.

April 30, 2009 at 11:36 AM · The solution is very simple....if Disney World is having issues, go to Islands Of Adventure instead....You'll have much more fun over there anyway....
April 30, 2009 at 1:54 PM · We know all to well about tour groups, especially from the nation of the samba and the frevo, but what about those from Mexico?

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