Tuesday, 7 August 2012


By Joyce Gathu
You are pressed, so you make that mad dash to
the toilet. The sight of the toilet seat fills you
with relief and you quickly sit.
Exhaling gratefully, you then proceed to take
care of the business that took you there.
Unbeknown to you, you may leave the toilet
with a virus and or bacteria that may cause you
more problems than you can imagine.
Consequently, the next time you are in a toilet
that is used by other people beside yourself,
think twice before you sit on that toilet seat.
Although you are unlikely to catch a sexually
transmitted disease (STD) from a toilet seat,
since most microorganisms that cause STDs
cannot survive for long outside the human
body, and also because a person’s genitals do
not make contact with the toilet seat, you could
catch a wide range of viruses such as Hepatitis
A and the common cold.
Hepatitis A is a serious liver disease caused by
Hepatitis A virus. This virus is found in the stool
of people already living with Hepatitis A.
“It can be transmitted from one person to the
other through close personal contact. For
instance, through toilet seats,” explains Dr
Patricia Oyier, a general practitioner in Nairobi.
One in every five people with Hepatitis A is
often hospitalised, while others find themselves
sick for an entire month, incapacitated and
unable to work.
The condition can also be fatal
According to the World Health Organisation
(WHO), about three to six deaths occur per
1,000 cases.
But that is not all; you may also acquire
streptococcal infections, a bacteria that causes a
variety of health problems including
pneumonia, meningitis, urinary tract infections,
blood and skin infections.
Toilets that accommodate several or many
people are breeding grounds for infection
causing germs.
“This is further compounded by the fact that
beside the toilet seat, there are so many areas
within the toilet from which you could catch
“The toilet door handle, flush handles, toilet
cover seat, soap dispenser and towels can
easily transmit infection causing germs,”
explains Dr Oyier.
Dr Oyier advises people not to flush the toilet
with bare hands, but to use a piece of tissue
paper to turn the flush handle.
According to health experts, women are much
more afraid of germs from toilet seats than
As a result, in an effort to avoid germs, a
significant number of women have devised
ways in which they relieve themselves without
their bodies coming into contact with the toilet
“I basically do what my friends and I call
“assuming the position”; we simply hover
above the toilet seat,” Stella Mugo says
Unknown to Mugo and her ilk, this habit can
cause more harm than good.
“Hovering makes it difficult for all the urine in
the bladder to be released. This can cause
urinary tract infections (UTI) that are not only
uncomfortable but also painful,” Dr Mark
Muiru, a gynaecologist in Nairobi, explains.
Statistics have shown that about half of all
women will have at least one UTI in their
“Women are much more predisposed to UTI
than men because, unlike men, they have a
shorter urinary tract,” Dr Muiru expounds.
As a precautionary measure, Dr Muiru advises
women to either use toilet seat covers if
available, or to wipe the seat and cover it with
toilet paper before sitting on it.
“Most well established hotels have a toilet seat
cover dispenser, but not many people are
familiar with them.
“In fact, people often mistake them for paper
towels and I often see them use these covers
to wipe their hands,” Carol Njambi, a cleaner in
a city hotel, explains.
Besides the above risk reducing precautions,
proper hygiene and a strong immune system
will significantly defend you against germs
found in toilets.
Take precaution
By being mindful of the fact that toilets that are
shared by many people, such as public toilets,
or toilets in offices and restaurants, can easily
harbour a variety of germs, one can take
precautions to reduce risk of infections.
People are advised to leave the toilet
immediately after flushing.
Those in the habit of lingering in the toilets,
particularly women who are lured by mirrors
positioned within a toilet, have been warned.
The mist from the flush is bound to contain
germs. One should leave before it is released
into the air and settles on the toilet surfaces,
you included.
Where the toilet seat has a cover, one should
put it down before flashing.
Medical experts advise people to wash their
hands for about 20 to 30 seconds, with soap or
sanitising gel if available, paying attention to
Equally important is avoiding coming into direct
contact with surfaces within the toilet as much
as possible, for instance, one can use a tissue
paper to turn the tap off and even to open the
outer door of a toilet.
Protect your hands and eyes from coming into
contact with toilet detergent since some of
them are strong and corrosive.

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