Written by By Connor Van Camp, CNN
There’s a new gate guard at Disney Cruise Line, and it’s got an extra inch in its purse.
The company announced this week that all passengers aged 5 and older will be required to be fully vaccinated for flu-related illnesses (such as influenza, shingles and pneumonia), following an outbreak on a previous sailing.
“During the current outbreak of influenza in the United States, Disney Cruise Line has been advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that influenza-like illness cases in passengers and crew are increasing, requiring its medical team to diligently monitor the conditions of the sea and air on every sailing to determine if travelers present risk for infection,” Disney Cruise Line said in a press release on Monday.
In the past, young children and those with medical conditions were granted exemption from receiving a flu shot. But when an increased number of the latter are traveling on a given cruise, those who are considered “high risk” have to be screened by an “immunization advisor,” who identifies their specific need for vaccination.
Each cruise line and some hospitals will continue to grant exemptions for travelers with medical conditions, as are technically allowed by law, according to the CDC website.
Health officials and industry observers are currently monitoring an uptick in cases of “metoroflaccid encephalitis” (a type of brain inflammation), also known as EV-D68 (formerly known as California Avian Flu).
Disney Cruise Line’s announcement comes less than a week after Disneyland Resort and Disney California Adventure theme parks began handing out free flu vaccines to anyone who requested them.
“It’s about playing the game of making sure the travel experience is enjoyable for everyone,” Drew Morgenson, spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN affiliate KABC on Friday.
Children under 2 are “of higher risk” for serious complications from the flu because they have lower immune systems, according to Dr. Jon Shendell, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at UC Irvine. Since they are more likely to be in school at the time of infection, this means it is more likely they will become ill.
Parents, you can go ahead and get your flu shot now.