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What to Do When You Need to Use a Public Bathroom During a Pandemic


It can feel as though you’re running an infectious gantlet when using a public bathroom, especially following last week’s news of toilet plume, that cloud of aerosol droplets that can rise nearly three feet and linger long enough to be inhaled by the toilet’s next user, or land on other surfaces of the bathroom. And, in a way, you are.

So what to do, especially now that many of us are starting to leave home a little more? Should we avoid shared restrooms — in parks, malls or recently reopened restaurants — like, well, the plague?

As an obstetrician and gynecologist, I spend a lot of time dispelling the myth that you can catch a sexually transmitted infection from a shared toilet seat (because you can’t, not even herpes, which is the most commonly believed myth). But what about the coronavirus?

We know they can be infectious by touch. We wipe and potentially contaminate everything we touch with infections that come from stool, like norovirus and E. coli, before our hands get washed.


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