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World Toilet Day 2020: Infections You Can Catch From A Dirty Toilet

Every year on 19 November, World Toilet Day is observed to raise awareness on the importance of a toilet for sustainable sanitation. The day also focuses on bringing proper sanitisation facilities to communities who don't have access to safely managed sanitation.

Toilets help in accumulating human waste to a safe and accessible setting from which they can easily be treated or safely disposed. Human waste is also reused for energy production in the form of biogas and used for irrigation as a fertiliser.

Maintaining the cleanliness of a toilet is crucial for the prevention of several diseases and infections such as hepatitis. This is because several pathogens hover over the toilet seats, flushing button, jet spray, doorknobs and areas surrounding the commode.

When these microbes come in contact with human skin or enter into the nose, mouth or eyes through contaminated hands, they cause a wide range of infections and some can be severe or life-threatening.

In this article, we will discuss some of the infections that may spread by using a dirty toilet. Take a look.


1. Strep throat

Streptococcus is the most common bacteria found in the washroom. It is the main cause of a wide range of infections, including strep throat. As the bacteria is highly contagious, it may infect a person through contaminated bathroom objects or say, from an infected person touched objects such as doorknobs.

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2. Diarrhoea

Bacterial diarrhoea is mainly caused by Salmonella or Campylobacter bacteria. When a person travels to a place with poor sanitation, they may also get diarrhoea due to infection by E. coli, Shigella or certain parasites present on the faeces. [1]


3. Ebola

In Ebola outbreak areas such as West Africa, the transmission of Ebola virus is common through human waste. Waste-related transmission of Ebola can be reduced if waste and sanitisation service in Ebola endemic areas are improved. [2]


4. Cholera

Cholera is mainly spread through faecal-oral routes and contaminated environmental surfaces such as lakes or agricultural lands. By focusing on its transmission route i.e. improper sanitation, we can prevent and control the disease spread in many areas where cholera is endemic. [3]

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5. Gonorrhoea

It is a type of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) that can spread through a toilet seat. Gonorrhoea infection can cause symptoms such as thick and green vaginal discharge in a short time and may be resistant to some antibiotics like ciprofloxacin. [4]


6. Skin infections

Streptococci bacteria can cause mild to severe skin infections such as impetigo and necrotising fasciitis through a public toilet seat. The bacteria may also cause boils in the buttocks and irritation on the perianal skin.


7. Pneumonia

A study has shown the presence of pneumonia bacteria on the mobile phones of health workers. The microbes are predicted to have transmitted to the device from many sources including the toilet seat. This may have happened when a person had used their mobiles while pooping and doesn't wash hands. [5]

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8. Pubic lice

Pubic lice are mainly found in the pubic hair area. They spread mainly through toilet seats or sexual contact. Itchiness in the genital region during nighttime is the main symptoms of the infection. [6]


9. UTI

Poor toilet habits can increase the risk of urinary tract infection, which is the second most common reason for hospital visits. UTI is a common health problem in women of younger age, especially those who have a habit of using western toilets. [7]


10. Scarlet fever

Group A Streptococcus is the main cause of scarlet fever, the same bacteria type that causes strep throat. They mainly spread by mucosal transfer or infected droplets such as nasal secretion, sneeze or cough. [8]

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11. Food poisoning

Consumption of food through contaminated hands may cause food poisoning. This happens when a person does not wash hands after vising bathroom or public toilets. The transfer of Salmonella bacteria from domestic toilets can make other family members sick. [9]


12. Hepatitis A infection

The infection is mainly transmitted by the faecal-to-oral route. The symptoms of hepatitis A infection include fever, nausea and abdominal cramps. The incubation period of the virus is long which is why the infection often goes unrecognised. [10]


13. Cold and flu

Cold and flu virus are also among the common viral infection that can spread by using dirty toilets. They may cause flu-like symptoms such as headache, fever, blocked or running nose.

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14. Stomach cramps

Stomach cramps can be due to infection by E-coli bacteria through contaminated toilet seats. Sometimes, diarrhoea can progress and get worse causing severe abdominal cramps along with bloody stools and vomiting.