A lot of people worry that toilet seats are breeding grounds for all sorts of disease-causing microorganisms. There is some truth to that. Toilet seats harbor germs, many of which are responsible for some nasty diseases. However, herpes is not one of them. For example, if you visit an STD testing clinic in Oregon City, you’ll likely be told that the probability of catching herpes from your toilet seat is minimal at best.
What is Herpes?
Herpes simplex virus (HSV), or simply herpes, is a viral infection that affects millions of people worldwide. The disease gets its name from the microorganism responsible for causing it.
Medically, herpes is divided into two types. These include;
i) Herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1: This is commonly known as oral herpes. It accounts for the most prevalent type of herpes infection, being transmitted through sexual and non-sexual contact. A significant number of those infected with this strain of virus may not show any symptoms of the disease though others will have recurrent episodes of it.
Its signs and symptoms include:
- Headaches and body aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Painful mouth and nasal sores
- Tingling, numbness, or itching
ii) Herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2): Also known as genital herpes, this strain is transmitted through sexual contact. It’s possible for infected individuals to never show any symptoms of the disease.
In addition to all the other signs of symptoms experienced due to oral herpes, individuals infected with genital herpes get sores, blisters, and lesions on their inner thighs and genitals.
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be found on a toilet seat if an infected individual comes in contact with it. However, most viruses are unable to survive outside a living cell for long. As such, the herpes virus cannot live long enough on the toilet seat surface to infect another person. Of course, if a healthy individual comes into contact with a contaminated toilet seat within a minute or two of the virus settling there, there is a good chance of an infection. This is why it is extremely rare to get a herpes infection from a toilet seat.
How Else Can You Catch Herpes?
In addition to the one-in-a-million chance that you catch herpes from a toilet seat, other ways of contracting the virus include:
i)Sexual contact, both oral and penetrative
ii) Mother to child during pregnancy and birth
iii) Sharing sharp objects like razor blades
iv) Contact with the body fluids of an infected person including blood and saliva
It’s crucial to remember that individuals carrying the virus but not exhibiting any symptoms of the disease(carriers) can still infect healthy individuals.
Factors That Increase the Risk of Herpes Infection
An individual’s general health is one of the key factors that determine the risk of herpes infection. Certain health conditions make it more likely that a person will get a herpes infection. These include:
i)Individuals with a compromised immune system. People with health issues like HIV and cancer have a weakened immune system. This makes them susceptible to many infections, including herpes.
ii)Eczema and similar conditions
iii) Those undergoing treatment with certain drugs. For example, those undergoing chemotherapy for cancers and those taking anti-rejection medications after an organ transplant.
Can You Catch Other Diseases From a Toilet Seat?
Just because you’re unlikely to contract herpes from your toilet seat does not mean that it is completely safe. Numerous other organisms can be just as harmful. For example, many urinary tract infections (UTIs) can be traced back to contaminated toilet seats.
The other organisms that can be found on and around a toilet seat include:
i)Staphylococcus: Commonly known as staph, These bacteria can be stubborn. They tend to linger around toilet seats for a long time, making it likely that they’ll infect healthy individuals that come into contact with such toilet seats. Some of its strains are resistant to drugs, causing life-threatening conditions.
ii) Streptococcus: Also known as strep, these bacteria are dangerous. They are responsible for some diseases like necrotizing fasciitis, a condition in which the bacteria “eats” one’s flesh.
iii) Escherichia coli: Commonly referred to as E.coli, this type of bacteria is part of the normal microorganism population of the human intestines. However, it can cause diseases like UTIs and traveler’s diarrhea.
iv) Influenza: This virus is responsible for causing the common flu. It can survive on the toilet seat surface for up to 3 days.
Avoiding Infections From Your Toilet Seat
Proper hygiene and sanitation are key to avoiding most of the diseases associated with toilet seats. It’s advisable to wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds every time you use the toilet. When possible, use your foot instead of your hand to flush the toilet. The act of flushing itself can help transmit bacteria two to three meters away. As the water in the toilet bowl takes away the fecal matter, numerous bacteria are dispersed into the air close to the toilet seat. That’s why proper toilet sanitation is essential.
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