Amid Zika fears, Florida theme parks offer mosquito repellent

Story highlights

  • Walt Disney World, SeaWorld and Universal Orlando are giving away repellent
  • No Zika cases have been found yet in Orlando

(CNN)It probably was only a matter of time, but mosquito repellent has joined hand sanitizer as a must-have health accessory at Florida theme parks.

Walt Disney World, Sea World and Universal Orlando are spearheading the movement in hope of sidelining any fears tourists may have of being exposed to Zika-carrying mosquitoes.
So far, no case of the dangerous Zika virus has been found that far north -- Orlando is 228 miles on the Florida Turnpike from Miami. But experts say it's only a matter of time before the bug reaches the Magic Kingdom.
    So Disney is getting set to reassure a key targeted demographic --women in child-bearing years and their partners -- that it will have repellent on hand to fend off any of the critters, disease-ridden or not.
    "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."
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    Pregnant women are most at risk with Zika because infections can damage the brains of unborn children, causing them to have smaller than normal heads, intellectual disability, poor motor and speech functions and seizures after birth.
    A Miami mother is anguished about her baby's health after she contacted Zika when she was 3 months pregnant.
    More importantly, researchers are continually learning more disturbing facts about the virus. Not only can it be passed through sex with an infected partner, but it is also been found to live in infected people's bodies much longer than originally thought.
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    It is enough to scare any potential parent into thinking Florida may be better for retirement than vacationing, and theme parks in the Sunshine State need to tamp down that fear.
    "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."
    Starting Sunday, Sea World Parks & Entertainment will be offering guests "complimentary EPA-approved insect repellent" at all of its venues, from Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay to SeaWorld, said spokeswoman Aimée Jeansonne Becka.
    "We continue to stay in contact with local, state and federal health officials for the latest updates and recommendations," she said.
    Miami Zoological Wildlife Foundation has already been supplying "personal-sized DEET-free mosquito repellent" for tours of its private zoo as well as ensuring there is no standing water on the property, said spokeswoman Paulina Naranjo.
    Disney has had its share of tragedies related to guests. In June, a Nebraska couple lost their 2-year-old child to an alligator while on a Walt Disney World beach one evening to watch a movie. A recent report by the state noted that at least two guests warned Disney employees that an alligator was prowling where children were wading.
    The theme park had not warned guests of the possible danger posed by gators, especially to small children, at the time of the attack. Disney has since erected signs warning of alligators and poisonous snakes and taken other measures to protect guests.