What are the dangers of using public bathrooms in a coronavirus world?

Posted at 12:49 PM, Jul 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-10 18:48:10-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - What are the dangers of using public bathrooms during the coronavirus pandemic?

Health experts are examining the simple task done daily by everyone and the dangers of COVID-19.

Scientists have been looking at the impacts of flushing and what is left in the air, according to a study published by the journal of Physics of Fluids.

The study found that when you flush there is a plume of aerosol droplets in the air that can rise about three feet above the toilet.

“Viral particles that aerosolized hanging around in the air much longer than droplets do…The aerosolized particles could settle on the toilet seat, the handle, the walls. They can hang around there for a few minutes even sometimes a little bit longer than that so if you're immediately using the bathroom right after somebody, those particles could be in the air when you walk into the bathroom, said Dr. Ryan Light with the Tidewater Physicians Multispecialty Group.

Dr. Light said this recent study is hypothetical and there is not enough evidence available to suggest that you can get COVID-19 by inhaling air particles.

“We can't say that you can catch it that way or transmit it that way. It's very highly unlikely, even though we know that patients with COVID-19 do shed some virus in their GI system so we know that the stool could contain it,” said Dr. Light. “It's a very low likelihood and I mean, it's extremely low. What we know is that the excrement or stool does contain some of these viral particles. It's a very low number.”

He said to be safe you want to practice good bathroom hygiene.

He said wash your hands, don’t touch your face, wear a mask and maintain social distancing. He said use a barrier like a paper towel when touching knobs. Form a line outside the bathroom if there are too many people inside to maintain social distancing.

“You got to continue to keep your guard up. I think Hampton Roads has done a wonderful job with their mask wearing,” said Dr. Light, “Don't be scared to use the bathroom.”