The notion that you can contract genital herpes from a toilet seat has been floating around for quite some time. Misguided sex-ed teachers, high school locker room talk, and the invention of social media have certainly not helped to clear up this herpes myth in the slightest. So, we figured we’d take the time to put this urban legend to rest once and for all.
Can you catch herpes from a toilet seat?
The quick answer is no. It is highly unlikely, even unheard of to catch herpes from a toilet seat. However, it’s not necessarily impossible. Let us explain.
How common is herpes?
The herpes simplex virus (HSV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STD) worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), worldwide levels of herpes involve more than 3.7 billion adults (younger than age 50) who carry the HSV-1 virus and another 417 million who carry HSV-2 in their bodies.1 Both oral herpes and genital herpes are highly contagious and passed almost exclusively through skin-to-skin contact with an active or open sore.
How can you catch herpes?
Contact can certainly include sexual activity but can also be something as innocent as a peck on the cheek or forehead. Keep in mind that babies are extremely susceptible to the herpes virus.
As adorable as they may be, it’s incredibly important to not kiss babies on the lips, head, cheek, hand, or anywhere else if you are living with the virus. Parents of little ones ought to be extra vigilant on this front as well to keep their babies safe. In fact, many adults who live with oral herpes contracted it during their infant or toddler years from infected adults who were not as careful.
However–and this is important–as easy as it is to transfer the herpes virus from one person to another, it’s worth noting that the virus cannot sustain itself outside the body. When separated from the body, the herpes virus doesn’t last long.2 After that time has passed, the virus is no longer a threat to anyone with whom it comes in contact.
Can herpes survive on a toilet seat?
Now let’s apply that to the initial urban legend of whether or not you can contract herpes from a toilet seat. To catch herpes from a surface like a toilet seat, conditions would need to be laboratory-level ideal.
An infected person would have to use the facilities and make sure that the seat came in direct contact with an open sore. They would then presumably leave the bathroom or stall and an uninfected person would need to walk in, and have skin contact with the precise viral area of the toilet seat.
All of this would have to happen exactly.
This unique scenario is not completely outside the realm of universal possibility, but it’s safe to say that it would be highly unlikely to catch HSV from a toilet. While public restrooms may not be among the most hygienic of places you’ll ever encounter, the idea that you might accidentally contract HSV-2 is a myth. The risk of catching herpes by way of a toilet seat, sharing drinks or anything other than skin-to-skin contact isn’t worth the worry.
Now that we’ve busted the toilet seat myth, if you’d like to learn more about HSV or how to maintain your sexual health with routine STD testing, check out our variety of discrete testing options or reach out to our care counselors today.
- “Herpes simplex virus.” World Health Organization. World Health Organization, May 20, 2020. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/herpes-simplex-virus.
- Bardell, D. “Survival of Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 on Some FREQUENTLY Touched Objects in the Home and Public Buildings.” PubMed. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1990. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2172749/.