So, as the deadly strain of influenza sweeps the USA, travelers and hoteliers alike have been taking extra precautions to stay healthy - or at least feel less miserable.
"We hear the flu reports everyday, and we want to be prepared (for sick guests)," says Andy Labetti, general manager of the Omni Berkshire Place, an upscale hotel in Midtown Manhattan.
Some hotels, including Labetti's, are preparing chicken soup to serve to sick guests stuck in their rooms, while others are stocking up on jugs of hand sanitizer gel and boxes of tissues.
Travelers take precautions
Travelers, meanwhile, view the flu epidemic as so threatening that many are changing their habits. Some simply aren't traveling this month, while others are skipping crowded elevators and avoiding gym equipment.
In a time of year when contact with germs could mean a week in bed, USA TODAY Road Warrior Richard Miller of Plano, Texas, says that something as simple as waiting in line in a hotel lobby poses risks. While checking into the Four Points by Sheraton hotel in Houston last week, Miller says a woman standing in front of him turned around and sneezed - all over his leg.
"No apology, even after I pointed out there were a couple of square inches on my other pant leg she might have missed," Miller says.
Susan Jacobsen of Washington D.C., says she brought a mini-bottle of Lysol disinfectant spray with her to Las Vegas earlier this month when she attended the International Consumer Electronics Show, with its roughly 150,000 attendees. She used it to disinfect her hotel room. At the show, she says, "there seemed to be just as much chatter about all the new tech gadgets unveiled as there was about the flu epidemic."
While in an airport in December, Penny Ridderbusch of Port Townsend, Wash., says she saw so many fellow travelers coughing that she stopped at the Target store across the street from her client's office to get a flu shot.
Despite the vaccine, Ridderbusch remains so leery of catching the flu that she's ditched her traditional workout sessions in the hotel gym for exercising in her hotel room - far from germ-riddled equipment. She's avoiding other potential germ traps.
"I try to avoid riding in the hotel elevator with anyone. I use the back of my hand for pressing elevator buttons," Ridderbusch says in an e-mail written from her room at the Holiday Inn in Clark, N.J.
Some people take efforts to avoid elevators - period.
"I avoid elevators if at all possible," says Charley King of Kennesaw, Ga., who travels 50 weeks per year. "With my (Hilton) status, I'm always assured a ground floor room at Hilton Garden Inns."
Jim Manning of Braintree, Mass., has been getting a flu shot since contracting the flu in the 1990s. But he's still not taking any chances.
This season, he's toting a mini-bottle of antibacterial hand gel, in addition to the wipes that he normally carries to sanitize hotel door handles and the TV remote. He's using the Purell "after shaking hands or touching door handles in public places."
How are hotels preparing for the flu?
Besides reminding employees to wash their hands more often, hoteliers are taking other steps during this year's flu epidemic. Examples:
Proactive help. At the Omni Berkshire Place hotel, Labetti's encouraging employees to ask guests who don't appear to be feeling well if they can help. That could mean walking to a drugstore to buy a guest a specific medicine. "As a hotelier, the first thing out of your mouth is, 'What can we do for you?'," he says. "Do you need extra blankets? Do you need a humidifier? Whatever you need, we're going to take care of it. We want you to know you're not here alone." The celebrity magnet in Beverly Hills, Calif. - the Beverly Hills Hotel, part of the luxury Dorchester Collection - is stocking its retail shop with extra hand sanitizer bottles as well as Theraflu and other medication, says hotel publicist Jenna Duran.
Hand sanitizer. USA TODAY Road Warrior James Morrow has noticed bottles of hand sanitizer in the hotels he's been staying at recently. "The hotel I'm staying at (Doubletree by Hilton in Richardson, Texas) has large jugs of hand sanitizer clearly visible in major areas of the lobby," he says. The historic Mayflower Renaissance hotel in Washington D.C., recently added hand gel to its newly refurbished front desk counters, opting for decorative green-glass dispensers instead of jugs. The Mayflower is getting ready for Pres. Obama's second inauguration, so it will be packed this weekend.
Chicken soup. Some hotels around the U.S. offer sick guests a complimentary bowl of hot chicken soup delivered to their room. The 50-property Omni chain says it's done this for about five years. At the Omni Mandalay in Las Colinas, Texas, the hotel's kitchen whips up a chicken soup for sick guests, even though the hotel's Italian restaurant serves up a hearty minestrone, says food and beverage director Charles Riley. "We make it from scratch any time that we need to for our guests," he says. During the Superbowl weekend ice storm in 2011, the hotel served about 25 bowls a day for about four days, he says. "We send it up with a get-well card and ginger ale." At the Beverly Hills Hotel, guests who don't feel well can receive a complimentary bowl of chicken soup along with orange juice, Airborne, a box of tissues, bottle of water and a Chapstick lip balm, Duran says.
No traveler is immune to flu fears - not even Hollywood's A-list actors, actresses and movers and shakers.
This week, as movie industry elites such as Ashton Kutcher, Daniel Radcliffe and Jessica Biel descend on Park City, Utah, for the annual Sundance Film Festival, the Hollywood Reporter says that a local hospital vowed to distribute 5,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to hotels, restaurants and transportation companies to curb flu worries.