5 Germs You Really Can Get From a Toilet


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Influenza (and the Common Cold)
Ah, influenza -- that old chestnut. While it can live on toilet seats, it can also live on almost any other surface you touch. The bathroom needn’t be the scapegoat. © Fuse/Thinkstock

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.

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Sources

  • 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/
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