Florida theme parks to offer free repellent in Zika scare

A car spraying for mosquitos drives through the media village at dusk in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on July 29, 2016. Theme parks in the Orlando and Tampa area will begin offering free mosquito repellent Sunday to protect guests from bites. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

ORLANDO, Fla., Aug. 28 (UPI) — Concerns over the Zika virus have prompted a number of theme parks to begin offering free mosquito repellent.

Starting Sunday, Walt Disney World, Sea World Entertainment and Universal Orlando will begin handing out the free repellent, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Disney is offering free pump bottles and towelettes at its parks and at Disney Springs and ESPN Wide World of Sports. Aerosol cans of spray are being offered at hotel rooms, with signs at the resorts informing visitors that repellent and protective clothing can help the avoid bug bites.

SeaWorld is also offering repellent at Busch Gardens and Adventure Island in Tampa.

Fears over the virus have mounted with more than 40 locally transmitted cases reported in Miami and in Pinellas County. Zika is especially dangerous to pregnant women whose babies can be born with unusually small heads.

No cases of the Zika virus have been reported in Orlando or Tampa, but experts say it’s only a matter of time before the mosquitos carrying Zika reach the Magic Kingdom, CNN reported.

Theme park owners say they are providing the repellent out of an abundance of caution, even though they already practice extensive mosquito prevention and monitoring.

“Orlando is the gold standard of mosquito control efforts,” Visit Orlando Chief Executive Officer George Aguel said. “Both our government leaders and our tourism businesses are very serious about mosquito control.” He said the decision by the theme parks to provide repellent is “just one more example of such measures.”

Other efforts include spraying grounds and eliminating standing water to prevent breeding, Aguel said.

Already, attendance at Florida’s theme parks has declined this year, with hotel bookings also down. Tourism experts believe the drop in Brazilian visitors, the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in June and a lack of new attractions have all contributed.


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