Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld Florida have all put up signs about mosquito prevention efforts today. The Florida theme parks will also start offering free mosquito repellant to any visitors who ask for it. But curiously you won’t find the one word that matters on any of the signs or handouts: Zika.
WDW News Today spotted the first mosquito prevention sign at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park in Florida this morning. And theme park podcaster Derek Burgan spotted the new mosquito prevention signs at Universal Orlando. At this point just about everybody visiting Florida probably knows about Zika, the disease that’s currently making its way through Miami and can cause birth defects. But it’s still interesting that none of the materials at these parks mention the word.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Florida Governor Rick Scott has been talking to many of the Orlando area’s theme parks about what to do about the Zika situation. Tourism is obviously a huge part of Florida’s economy, and worries about Zika could potentially have a dramatic economic impact on the region.
“[Governor Scott] held multiple conference calls with Visit Florida and tourism leaders to make them aware of things they can do,” a spokesperson told the Orlando Sentinel about the plan to offer free mosquito repellent. “He appreciates all of these businesses doing this.”
But the theme parks are still trying to avoid speaking plainly about what they’re facing. Even Disney’s statement about mosquito prevention doesn’t contain the word “Zika” once.
“In an abundance of caution, we are accelerating preventative efforts throughout our property, including providing complimentary insect repellent to our guests along with helpful guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Disney said in a statement. “We have an extensive mosquito-prevention and monitoring program in place, and we continue to work closely with local, state and federal experts on this topic.”
Update, 2:23pm: While the word “Zika” doesn’t appear in the Disney parks, it does appear at the WDW website under the question, “What is happening related to Zika virus? How can I protect myself?”
Universal’s statement to CNN was identical in omitting any mention of Zika.
“We will be offering complimentary mosquito repellent at key locations beginning tomorrow,” Universal spokesman Tom Schorder told CNN by email. “Universal Orlando already has an aggressive, destination-wide prevention and management program in place for mosquitoes and other environmental issues. And (we) will continue to work closely with local and state officials.”
And I get it. Disney especially doesn’t want to ruin the magic. You can’t buy a newspaper inside the Disney parks for just this reason. The outside world can’t intrude on the world of make-believe. But sometimes it has to. You can’t sprinkle pixie dust and make Zika go away.
So perhaps, in the name of public health, just put the word Zika on the handouts and tell people what they’re dealing with. I promise that if they’re already in the park you’ve got their money. They’re only going to buy more gigantic plush Pooh bears to cut open and hide in like a Tauntaun to protect themselves from the Zika mosquitoes.