Make your safety a priority when using public toilets

May 14, 2020

Make your safety a priority when using public toilets

It's easy to make your safety a priority when using public toilets and protect yourself against getting sick.

Ever since the World Health Organization (WHO) reported a cluster of 41 confirmed cases of viral severe acute respiratory syndrome in Wuhan, Hubei Province, in the People’s Republic of China on January 12th 2020, our lives haven’t been the same.

Since then we have learnt many worrying facts about transmission from those that are studying it internationally, but this information is important in helping us understand how we can protect ourselves and reduce our chances of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 which leads to the clinical disease state known as COVID-19.[1]

We now know that the virus can persist in the air for up to three hours and on a variety of surfaces for up to 72 hours,[2] but did you know that our faeces, aka our poo, can also carry SARS-CoV-2?

Despite a small minority of COVID-19 patients experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms, 67% of these positive patients tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in their faecal specimens.[3] This means that even though they did not experience any unusual stomach or bowel issues, their poo samples tested positive to containing the SARS-CoV-2 viral particles.

It has also been found that viral shedding continues in faeces for 6-10 days after pharyngeal swabs became negative. Plus, SARS-CoV-2 has been successfully cultured from faecal samples confirming viable viral particles,[4] indicating the possibility of faecal-oral route transmission.[5]

What does this mean in plain English? It’s possible to catch COVID-19 from coming into contact with an infected persons faeces aka poo, even after they are no longer sick and after they have returned a negative test! This can occur when touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth. That is not great news and quite disgusting and alarming.

This is a huge wake-up call in regard to how we manage our hygiene both when we are at home and also when we are out and about and using public toilets.

When at home, our toilet hygiene now has to go well beyond our usual desire for cleanliness. In our new COVID-19 world, good bathroom hygiene ensures that should any of your family members become positive to COVID-19, you can try to reduce the likelihood of transmission within your family. Medical experts have been warning us with good reason to keep family members isolated and using their own bathroom while positive to reduce transmission between family members. Keep your bathrooms safe by cleaning all surfaces frequently and make sure you follow medical guidelines when having to disinfect a household bathroom when one of your family members is sick. It’s recommended you use gloves and a mask and that you wash your clothes and have a shower after disinfecting all surfaces.

Public toilets also pose a great risk due to the high volume of traffic they receive daily and infrequent substandard cleaning. However you can take steps to reduce your exposure to germs by being aware of the risks and what you can do to protect yourself. When you use a public toilet you now have to consider how to protect yourself not only from any germs that may be present on all the high touch surfaces, but also how to protect yourself from coming into contact from touching infected faecal matter.

It's easy to protect yourself against getting sick when using a toilet away from home by adopting some simple hygiene practices that goes beyond just washing your hands.

Check out our infographic below and make your safety a priority when visiting public toilets.


Find out more information below

[1] Guo, Y. R., et al., The origin, transmission and clinical therapies on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak - an update on the status. Mil Med Res, 2020. 7(1): p. 11.

[2] van Doremalen, Neeltje, et al., Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1. New England Journal of Medicine, 2020. 382(16): p. 1564-1567.

[3] Wang, Dawei, et al., Clinical characteristics of 138 hospitalized patients with 2019 novel coronavirus–infected pneumonia in Wuhan, China. Jama, 2020. 323(11): p. 1061-1069.

[4] Wang, Wenling, et al., Detection of SARS-CoV-2 in Different Types of Clinical Specimens.

[5] Wang, Dawei, et al., Clinical characteristics of 138 hospitalized patients with 2019 novel coronavirus–infected pneumonia in Wuhan, China. Jama, 2020. 323(11): p. 1061-1069.


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