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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ask the Doctor

Q: Is it really possible to catch a disease from a toilet seat?

Irina Vorotnikova, MedServisTsentr:

You can catch warts, various fungal infections, molluscum contagiosum -- a sort of wart, a paravenereal disease. To prevent this from happening, one can either use a paper seat cover, disinfect the seat prior to using it, or avoid sitting down at all."

Sergey Demichev, American Medical Center:

One can be infected with various skin diseases, for instance, with scabies, as well as sexually transmitted diseases. However, the risk is relatively small if one observes hygiene rules, for example, by using paper seat covers."

Sergei Sakharov, NeBolit medical centers:

You can get infected with staphylococcus infection or scabies, which you can also get by touching doorknobs in public restrooms. It's possible to contract dysentery as well. You can avoid this by following basic hygiene rules -- washing hands, using disposable paper toilet-seat covers. And, of course, try not to go into unsanitary public restrooms at all. If you have rashes or cuts, the chance of infection goes up and includes other diseases."

Lev Nemirovsky, ON Clinic:

Unfortunately, it is possible to catch an infection in public restrooms, but in reality several factors have to coincide: a concentration of microbes on the surface of the toilet seat, weakened immune system, presence of cuts or skin abrasions that act as gates for infections, and bad hygiene habits. It's hard to imagine all of these conditions happening at once even though agents of infection can survive and multiply in water, urine or saliva, all of which can be found in restrooms. Still, one should remember these risks, even if the immune system is strong. The agents that are a threat in public restrooms are ureaplasma and mycoplasma, herpes virus, papillomavirus, trichomoniasis, chlamydia, fungi, gonococcus, staphylococcus, and E. coli. To be infected with HIV or hepatitis B and C, one would have to have blood contact with a fresh, open wound. Theoretically this may be possible in a public restroom, but in my opinion imagining such a scenario is hair-splitting."