Dealing with Ebola and other Communicable Diseases in Hospitality

The recent Ebola news, combined with the seasonal threat of colds and flu, presents unique challenges to the hospitality industry.  Communicable diseases are spread through direct contact with blood or body fluids.  As such, personal health habits of employees are the first- and most important defense against these diseases. 

Emphasize to your employees the need for frequent – and thorough – hand washing.  While gel hand sanitizers are convenient, they are not a substitute for soap and water, and should only to be used as a stopgap until soap and water are available. 

In addition to frequent and thorough hand-washing, hotel managers should reinforce the following best practices among their housekeeping and laundry staff.  These employees should:

Universal precautions with respect to exposure to blood and bodily fluids should also be reinforced.  Make sure that protocol is communicated for:

In order to prevent the spread of germs, items commonly used by multiple guests – such as laminated room service menus, television remotes, telephone keyboards, computer keyboards, stair railings, and elevator buttons – should be routinely disinfected.  In addition, the cleaning and sanitizing of fitness equipment should be especially diligent.

Food service presents another opportunity to prevent the spread of infectious disease through proper food handling.  Fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed.  Some viruses are heat-resistant, and can survive temperatures as high as 140 degrees.  Shellfish products may be contaminated, as these are often cooked via a steaming process that is typically faster and at lower temperatures. Make sure food and beverage managers:

Human Resources should communicate information on infection control, hygiene, and the responsibility of employees to call off sick when they experience flu-like symptoms.

For more information, please contact Risk Consultant Anne Jackson at

Additional RCM&D Blogs:



General Industry

Long-Term Care

Real Estate

External Links:


How to Hand Wash

Sequence for Putting on Personal Protective Equipment