Influenza (and the Common Cold)
Influenza and other viruses can live for as many as two or three days on nonporous surfaces, including your phone, the remote control and (no surprise) the toilet seat -- and some of these viral strains may live even longer. Bird flu, for example, can live for weeks, just waiting for you to have a seat [source: Wood, et al]. The common cold, on the other hand (or would that be the other cheek?), isn't that much of a threat. You could still catch a cold from the toilet seat, but rhinovirus usually survives less than a day on hard surfaces [source: Winther].
The trick with the cold and flu is not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth after you've touched the toilet seat (or a doorknob, or your office keyboard, etc.). It's easily transmitted through mucous membranes. We shouldn't have to remind you, but always wash your hands after using the bathroom.
Author's Note: 5 Diseases You Really Can Get From a Toilet
It's undeniably gross when you discover the person who visited the public bathroom before you had, ahem, bad aim, but the seat isn't the filthiest thing about a toilet. Actually, that's probably the flusher. Think about it; how often do you flush with your foot instead of your hand? Right.
- A Germ by Any Other Name: 'Stomach Flu' and Other medical Misnomers
- 8 Germiest Public Places That Could Be Making You Sick
- 10 Grossest Things in Your Body Right Now
- Does the five second rule really work?
- How long can a germ live in a room?
More Great Links
- ABC News. "Myth: Toilet Seats Are the Dirtiest Thing in the Bathroom." October 14, 2005. (May 15, 2014) http://abcnews.go.com/2020/Health/story?id=1213831
- Borchgrevink, Carl P.; Cha, Jae Min; and Sung Hyun Kim. "Eww! Only 5 percent of us wash hands correctly." Michigan State University School of Hospitality Business. June 10, 2013. (May 15, 2014) http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-06/msu-eo5061013.php
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. "Shigellosis: General Information." May 14, 2013. (May 15, 2014) http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/shigellosis/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. "Necrotizing Fasciitis: A Rare Disease, Especially for the Healthy." June 28, 2013. (May 15, 2014) http://www.cdc.gov/features/necrotizingfasciitis/
- Cocoon. "Determining the Effectiveness of Antimicrobial, Antibacterial, Antifungal Protection in Cocoon Bioshield Membrane." (May 15, 2014) http://www.cocoon.net.au/Cocoon%20Biodefence.pdf
- Cohen, Hiyaguha. "Dangers In The Bathroom." Baseline of Health Foundation. Oct. 27, 2012. (May 15, 2014) http://jonbarron.org/article/dangers-bathroom#.U3KmFvldVbw
- Dugdale, David C. "Avian Influenza." The New York Times. Feb. 4, 2013. (May 15, 2014) http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/avian-influenza/overview.html
- East Cambridgeshire District Council. "Your Questions Answered: Shigella." (May 15, 2014) http://www.eastcambs.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Shigella.pdf
- Fox, Maggie. "Swine Flu Deaths Show This Flu Is Difference--Experts." Clinical infectious Diseases. Vol. 49, no. 10. Pages i-ii. Sept. 15, 2009. (May 15, 2014) http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/49/10/i.full
- Giannini, Mary Anne; Nance, Donna; and Jonathan A. McCullers. "Are toilet seats a vector for transmission of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus?" American Journal of Infection Control. Vol. 37, no. 6. Pages 505-506. August 2009. (May 15, 2014) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2965062/
- Hygiene Council. (May 15, 2014) http://www.hygienecouncil.org/explore/hygiene-hotspots-home.aspx
- Litchfield District Council - Health Protection Team. "'Bugs' Information Leaflet On: Dysentery (Shigella)." October 2002. (May 15, 2014). http://www.lichfielddc.gov.uk/download/downloads/id/360/dysentery-bugs0leaflet.pdf
- Mayo Clinic. "E. coli." July 28, 2011. (May 15, 2014) http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/e-coli/basics/definition/con-20032105
- Paediatrics & Child Health."Invasive strep infections and 'the flesh-eating disease'." Vol. 4, no. 1. Pages 77-78. Jan-Feb. 1999. (May 15, 2014) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2828232/
- Perl, Trish M.; and Cynthia L. Sears. "Gastrointestinal Flu: Norovirus in health Care and Long-term Care Facilities." Clinical Infectious Diseases. Vol. 47, no. 9. Pages 1202-1208. 2008. (May 15, 2014) http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/47/9/1202.long
- Pritchard, Charlotte. "Is the toilet seat really the dirtiest place in the home?" BBC News. Nov. 16, 2012. (May 15, 2014) http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-20324304
- Roufos, Anna. "Germ and Bacteria Hot-Spots: 12 Things You Should Know." Fitness. January 2006. (May 15, 2014) http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/fitness/printableStory.jsp?storyid=/templatedata/fitness/story/data/1135881081453.xml
- Shaw, Gina. "Bathroom Germs You Really Can Catch." WebMD. Nov. 16, 2011. (May 15, 2014) http://www.webmd.com/parenting/d2n-stopping-germs-12/bathroom-germs
- Shoemaker, Dawn. "Who Is Really At Risk In Public Restrooms?" Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online. Oct. 4, 2013 (May 15, 2014) http://www.cmmonline.com/articles/231958-who-is-really-at-risk-in-public-restrooms
- WebMD. "What Can You Catch in Restrooms?" (May 15, 2014) http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/what-can-you-catch-in-restrooms
- Winther, B; McCue, K; Ashe, K; Rubino, JR; and JO Hendley. "Environmental contamination with rhinovirus and transfer to fingers of healthy individuals by daily life activity." Journal of Medical Virology. October 2007. Vol. 79, no. 10. Pages 1606-1610. (May 15, 2014) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17705174?itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum&ordinalpos=1
- Wood, Joseph P., et al. "Environmental Persistence of a Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5N1) Virus." Environmental Science and Technology. Sept. 3, 2010. (May 20, 2014) http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es1016153
Sometimes you just can't avoid using a public bathroom. Is it safe with coronavirus raging? How can you be sure?