Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dozens become ill taking Disney's 'Wild Africa Trek' tour

There is an investigation underway after several dozen people became ill, which was linked to Walt Disney World's "Wild Africa Trek" experience.
This is a tour in where small groups of people get a up-close at the wildlife in Disney's Animal Kingdom and a enjoy a catered meal served on the theme park's manmade savannah.

Investigators have documented "several dozens of cases" of illnesses among guests who took the Disney tour in June and July, said a spokesman for the Orange County Health Department.

"It appears to be some kind of stomach bug, It could be food-borne, it could be water-borne, it could be something that's passed on person-to-person, it could be something that's picked up by surface."

Disney has undergone a "deep cleaning" of various surfaces that guests touch, distributing more hand sanitizers, and re-emphasizing hand-washing policies to guests and employees.

The Wild Africa Trek is one of the most-exclusive experiences at Disney World. Guests pay from $139 to $249 a person —  not including the basic park admission — for the three-hour tour, during which guests explore wooded overgrowth, peek over a cliff at a pool of hippos, cross a wooden bridge above crocodiles, and dine in a safari-style camp.

The county Health Department was alerted to the outbreak on June 11, and immediately inspected the kitchen at Disney World where employees prepare the food served on the trek, but they found no problems.

The Health Department said that the reported symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue and nausea.

Several people have reported their illnesses on, a popular forum for Disney fans. One of those who posted said he or she was "extremely sick" by midnight the day after taking the tour, with vomiting that lasted for about five hours and pain, cramping and diarrhea that endured for more than a week. Another said his wife had to take him to the emergency room because of complications.

A third person said questioning from health officials has led her to think that they are zeroing in on hand washing and common items touched by guests during the tour, including binoculars.

All evidence so far suggests the illness "was confined to this one excursion" and not widespread within the rest of the Animal Kingdom theme park, which draws approximately 9.8 million visitors a year.

"Many times we're not able to find a source," the health department spokesperson said. "What we see in a lot of these cases is it boils down to hygiene. Simple hand washing — proper hand washing and hand sanitizer — because all it takes is one person that doesn't do it that has a germ on their hands and they touch a surface. And it can just take off."