School is in session and colleges are bustling with students preparing for the academic year. Are there hidden dangers for students moving into dorm rooms? Some students may wonder if it is possible to contract a STD simply from being in a dorm room, sitting on the bed, or using the same restroom as a student that has a STD.
Some STDs can be transmitted from contact with an infected surface, not just through sexual contact. Viral STDs can live outside of the body,. unlike STDs that are of the bacterial form and die as soon as they leave the body. STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are not a concern when visiting a dorm room because they die as soon as they leave the protection of the mucus lining. Viral STDs such as Hepatitis, HPV, HIV and Herpes can live outside the body on surfaces anywhere from a few seconds up to a few weeks. Cleaning surfaces can kill these viruses, but you can never tell by simply looking at a surface.
It is highly unlikely to transmit a virus or a bacteria through skin contact alone. For transmission, these STDS need a port of entry into the body to establish an infection. This port of entry can be broken skin from a bug bite or scratch, direct contact with the eye or other mucosal surfaces.
There is a third category of STIs that could be cause for concern: parasites. Certain parasites such as pubic lice (crabs) or trichomoniasis can be transmitted by coming into contact with articles of clothing, bed sheets, dirty towels etc. Parasitic STIs are the only STIs that could be commonly passed or contracted through these kinds of surfaces.
Pubic lice is a parasitic STI that does not require antibiotics like other bacterial and parasitic STDs. Pubic lice can be cured the same way you would get rid of other lice. A trip to the drugstore to purchase an anti-lice shampoo is usually all you will need.
Trichomoniasis, also known as trich, is also a parasite transmitted through sexual contact. Trich enters the body and causes symptoms like that of a bacterial STD. These symptoms include: vaginal odor, discharge, inflammation and itching. You will need to take a course of antibiotics in order to get rid of this STD
With both parasitic STDs it is important that your partner is treated so that you do not re-infect yourself. It is also important that you wash your bedding and personal items to assure there is not a chance of re-infestation.
Viral STDs need to make it into your bloodstream to cause an infection, so it would be extremely unlikely for you to contract an infection from a surface like a toilet seat.
If you are still concerned you should make it a priority to get tested regularly. Make sure you are keeping your dorm room clean and do not share towels or personal items with other students.
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- Kimberly A. Workowski, MD and Gail A. Bolan, MD. (2015). Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines. MMWR Recomm Rep.
- (2002). Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines 2002. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MMWR Recomm Rep.
Men’s Behavior Change Following Infection With a Sexually Transmitted Disease. PERSPECTIVES ON SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH.
- Kristen Underhill, Kathleen M. Morrow, Christopher M. Colleran, Richard Holcomb, Don Operario, Sarah K. Calabrese, Omar Galárraga, Kenneth H. Mayer. (2014). Access to Healthcare, HIV/STI Testing, and Preferred Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Providers among Men Who Have Sex with Men and Men Who Engage in Street-Based Sex Work in the US. PLOS ONE.
- Hsu • Jolin • Miller Lincoln • Lubelczyk • Nijhawan. (2011). Managing STDs in the Correctional Setting. A Guide for Clinicians. 2nd Edition.
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