Flu case could impact attendance of Orlando theme parks

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

As health authorities test whether a tourist who visited Walt Disney World earlier this week was infected with swine flu, industry experts said Tuesday the giant resort and other theme parks potentially faces substantial fallout. Florida Hospital acknowledged having sent a lab sample from an influenza-stricken tourist, who is either from Mexico or who has been in contact with someone from Mexico, to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

If the virus continues to spread at its current rate, there will most likely be cases in every major population area. With that being the situation, does it really make sense to avoid going to a resort because one person out of millions had a mild (read: non-lethal... yet) flu? As long as you wash your hands frequently and avoid close contact with strangers, you're no more likely to contract the flu at a theme park than the mall or grocery store.Aside from a toddler in Texas, not a single death has been attributed to the flu outside of Mexico. Even if dozens of people died in the near future, the effects of this outbreak would pale in comparison to the toll from the common flu. While swine flu is certainly a cause for concern, we are far from the point where we should change our lives (though washing hands more frequently can't hurt). Admittedly, I'd reconsider if I was planning a trip to Mexico City, but am I thinking about postponing my trip to Orlando next month? Absolutely not! I might be compelled to reach for the hand sanitizer a little more often, but that would be the extent to which I alter my trip unless a MAJOR outbreak was to occur.

If the virus continues to spread at its current rate, there will most likely be cases in every major population area.

Actually, it might not be as bad as you think. From today's NYT:

Some experts are cautiously optimistic. A computer simulation of this outbreak released Wednesday by a team from Northwestern University projected a worst-case scenario, meaning no measures have been taken to combat the spread. It predicted a mere 1,700 cases in the United States four weeks from now.

If we can make it to summer before things get out of hand, that buys enough time to develop a set of vaccines targeted to this particular H1N1 strain, and that could make the difference between a regular flu season and some pretty nasty stuff this winter.

That said, people aren't going to be rational about this. Even my wife---a physician who actually understands this stuff---toyed with the idea of canceling a trip to SFO later this month. If she's spooked, what chances do average people have of escaping the panic frenzy?

Last edited by Brian Noble,
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