Toilets are not known to be the cleanest of places. Just by the nature of their function, you can guess that there can be some pretty creepy and, sometimes, straight-up dangerous pathogens lurking on the porcelain. If you don’t keep your toilet clean, you can find yourself in a world of hurt and a ton of consultation fees from infectious disease doctors. Here are some of the most common germs and diseases you’ll find in a dirty toilet.
Aside from fecal bacteria, there are also viruses that can cause some nasty symptoms lurking on a toilet bowl. Famous for getting passengers on cruise ships sick, norovirus can survive for quite a long time on the surface of a toilet bowl. Norovirus is the culprit behind the infamous “stomach flu.” We’ve all had it at least once in our lives, and we know how uncomfortable it can be. Most of us are fine afterwards, but there are up to 800 people die every year from it. Mostly immunocompromised patients and the elderly. This is the danger of not wiping down, disinfecting, or unclogging a toilet before you use it. You can take a look here for solutions to your clogging problems, but the rest is really just basic hygiene. The best defense against this is to, again, use common sense and basic health practices.
While it’s highly unlikely to contract an STD from a toilet, there are certain pathogens that can survive for a short while on the toilet that cause STD-like symptoms. One such pathogen is actually a parasite—a fairly large flagellate called Trichomonas vaginalis. Trichomoniasis can cause itching, burning, purulent discharge, and other unsavory things. It can also be transmitted sexually and lay relatively dormant in the seminal vesicle. Trichomonas vaginalis is very common in urban areas and is treatable with the proper medication from a doctor.
Another common and scary pathogen you can get from a toilet is a staph infection. It may not have anything to do with feces, but it’s a nasty bug to get that has claimed more lives than the two above mentioned put together. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is the culprit. MRSA infections can be localized at the point of contact with the toilet seat and manifest as a boil or “really big pimple.” They usually have a golden/white center and are painful to the touch. When you get these, it’s important to see a doctor immediately. There’s no telling if it’s the kind of staph infection that can migrate and potentially become systemic unless you get the proper tests run.
The takeaway from all this is that no matter what, you are exposed to all sorts of germs at every single moment of the day. It’s a gross reality, sure, but we cannot avoid germs. The best we can do is wash our hands, wipe down toilets, and have some hand sanitizer handy throughout the day. These are the only proven methods in controlling common infections from a toilet and beyond.