According to an online publication ‘Medical News Today,’ urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of any part of the urinary system, which includes the bladder, kidneys, ureters and urethra. It explained that UTI is the second most common type of infection that affects the body and accounts for around 8.1 million visits to health care providers each year.
It also noted that over 50 percent of women experience at least one UTI during their lifetime, with 20 to 30 percent experiencing recurrent UTI. Women are more likely to develop UTIs than men, due to anatomical differences. The urethra is shorter in women than in men, and it is closer to the anus, making it more likely for bacteria to be transferred to the bladder.
Dr. (Mrs.) Olaide Omotosho-Ikuru, a medical personnel, told The Guardian that no doubt, there could be a witch’s brew of germs, whenever one uses public restrooms. However, many people’s thinking that toilet seats are public enemy number one and a playground for organisms responsible for STDs, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea, is not correct.
She said: “The toilet seat is not a common vehicle for transmitting infections to humans. Many disease-causing organisms can survive for only a short time on the surface of the seat. And for an infection to occur, the germs would have to be transferred from the toilet seat to the female urethral or genital tract, or through a cut or sore on the buttocks or thighs, which, though possible, is very unlikely.
“What most people refer to as toilet infection is known by other names in medical parlance. This is because people do not contract infections from the toilet. These diseases are generally known as vaginitis and are commonly caused by microorganisms. There are several kinds of these infections. However, the most common types are bacterial vaginitis, vaginal yeast infection and trichomoniasis. Others include, gonorrhea, chlamydia, non-infectious vaginitis and viral vaginitis.”
Omotosho-Ikuru explained that knowing the exact type of toilet infection individuals are experiencing might be a bit difficult, though they may have different symptoms. The reason is that vaginitis has many causes and a person may have more than one at the same time.
On the symptoms urinary tract infections present, she listed these to include painful urination, vaginal discharge that is foul smelling, coloured and itchy, among others.
She advised that a woman with the such symptoms should see her doctor, who will run urine tests, and or swab test, after which appropriate treatment will be given.
Omotosho-Ikuru said when vaginal infections are well managed and treated, there are no future challenges for the victim. However, in the event of non-compliance with prescribed medication, there may be a recurrence. Also, in the event of sexually transmitted diseases, the sexual partners should be treated simultaneously. But while there is plenty of bathroom paranoia to go around, anxiety might be a little overdone.
According to her, pregnant women are not more likely to develop a UTI than other women, but if it occurs in a pregnant woman, then it is more likely to travel up to the kidneys due to the anatomical changes affecting the urinary tract in pregnancy. As a UTI in pregnancy can prove dangerous for both maternal and infant health, most pregnant women are tested for bacteriuria, even if asymptomatic, and treated with prophylactic antibiotics. It can also increase the risk of women delivering low birth weight or premature infants.
Though most UTIs are not serious, but some can lead to serious problems, particularly with upper urinary tract infections, recurrent chronic or long-lasting kidney infections, as well as cause permanent damage, and sudden acute kidney infections that are life threatening, particularly if septicemia (bacteria entering the bloodstream) occurs.
This implies that there could be plenty of bugs lying in wait in public restrooms, including both familiar and unfamiliar suspects, such as streptococcus, staphylococcus, E. coli and Shigella bacteria, hepatitis A virus, the common cold virus, and various sexually transmitted organisms.
However, if a woman’s immune system is healthy, and she adopts simple personal hygiene exercise, such as hand washing, she would be able to deliver a knockout punch to most of what she may encounter and perhaps, put her “germ-phobia” to rest. “Men are less likely to get this type of infection, except they have diabetes or stones in their kidneys,” she added.