From fecal matter exposure to vaginal lacerations, Disney World visitors face health risks

By Lisa Marie Basile | Fact-checked by Davi Sherman
Published November 7, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Multiple Disney World visitors have reported cases of other patrons openly defecating in the amusement park, including while waiting in line for rides.

  • Exposure to fecal matter can lead to infections caused by certain bacteria. 

  • Recent news reports also found that a female Disney World visitor experienced severe physical injuries, including vaginal lacerations and internal organ damage, from a water slide.

Disney World may be known as “the happiest place on earth,” but recent news reports have shown visitors have experienced less-than-happy moments and various health risks at the beloved resort.[] 

Between exposure to infections and severe injuries caused by the amusement park’s attractions, patients should know that one of America’s most beloved vacation destinations could pose serious health risks. 

For example, Instagram user @archandcastle claims in a video that Disney World visitors have been defecating while waiting in lines for rides. At times, commenters claim, parents allow their children to defecate so as not to leave the line. 

The video cites a Reddit thread in which user Phoenixwade posted, “I am in the queue for [Rise of the Resistance] - someone let their kid [defacate] on the floor, and then they just walked out and left it…” In response, users backed up the claim, saying that this happens regularly. One former employee allegedly had to “clean urine and vomit off of [Rock 'n' Roller Coaster]” several times.[] 

Just two weeks ago, Disney Dining reported that the “usually family-friendly wave pool turned into a scene of shock when a cluster of boys, who appeared to be teenagers, gathered in the shallow end” to defecate in the water intentionally.[] 

In fact, there have been so many such instances at Disney that SF Gate reports that the park refers to the issue as a “Human Code H,” prompting custodial employees to tend to the matter. Research shows that enterococci can survive up to four months on dry, inanimate surfaces. The bacteria can even grow or thrive in water, soil, plants, and food.[][] 

Exposure to human feces—including while in recreational water, according to PloS One—can lead to Enterococcus faecium infections. Cited in a 2014 study, research from 2008 found that Enterococcus faecium “has emerged as a leading cause of multidrug-resistant enterococcal infection in the United States.”[][]

Enterococci infections can be difficult to treat, especially in a clinical setting. Infection symptoms can vary, including fever, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, pain, and urinary issues.[] 

They are a common cause of “UTI, bacteremia, and infective endocarditis and rarely cause intra-abdominal infections and meningitis,” according to StatPearls. “They have intrinsic resistance to some antibiotics and acquire and transfer resistance to other bacteria via mobile genetic elements.”[] 

Enterococcus faecium isn’t the only bacteria known to cause illness after exposure to fecal matter. In 2021, at least 27 people were infected by shigella bacteria and norovirus after being exposed to water contaminated by fecal matter at a Kansas wildlife park.[] 

Risks from the attractions

Beyond exposure to fecal matter, Disney World visitors have also sustained injuries on certain rides, including the Humunga Kowabunga water slide. According to a recent CBS News article, a woman celebrating her 30th birthday at the amusement park filed a lawsuit after she experienced “severe vaginal lacerations and internal organ damage” when going down the slide (which can send riders down at nearly 40 mph), the water was “violently forced inside her.”[][]

The woman, the article says, experienced “immediate and severe pain internally and, as she stood up, blood began rushing from between her legs."  NBC News also reports that lacerations caused the woman’s bowels to  “protrude through her abdominal wall.”

“At the top of the slide, riders are instructed to cross their legs at the ankles, according to the complaint. The woman alleges in her suit that she was put at risk for injury when she became airborne and was slammed against the slide, increasing the likelihood of her legs becoming uncrossed,” the article says. 

According to Sameena Rahman, MD, an OB/GYN at the Center for Gynecology and Cosmetics in Chicago, IL, the woman’s injuries aren’t entirely surprising. “Every year, women suffer from jet ski accidents and different water slides causing injury. Any time you are dealing with high speed and high force, you can have a significant laceration, particularly depending on the angle of the water slide, the amount of force of the water, and the speed at which you are sliding,” she says. 

Dr. Rahman explains how the Disney slide could have impacted the passenger: “In this situation…the water acts as a shearing force to cause significant laceration that ended up causing what seems to be enough force inside the vagina that her bowels or internal organs eviscerated, and she had internal injury,” she says. 

To protect against this sort of injury, Dr. Rahman encourages female amusement park visitors to keep their legs crossed when possible and to consider wearing more protective clothing, like a wet suit instead of a bikini or one-piece swimsuit. 

“Lastly, avoid things that are too dangerous. Maybe skip the ride if you do not have the appropriate clothing or protection in place that would allow the force of water to cause this injury,” Dr. Rahman adds.

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