Researchers have discovered that closing the toilet lid before you flush could prevent the norovirus, also known as the winter vomiting bug, from spreading.
Scientists from the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust found that leaving the lavatory lid up when you flush the toilet causes a cloud of bacteria to explode into the air and settle on nearby surfaces.
This increases the risk of viruses such as the winter vomiting bug and hospital superbugs transmitting from one person to another.
The researchers tested a range of hospital toilets to see whether leaving the toilet seat up or down has any impact on the stomach bug spreading.
They used a sterilised toilet and created a 'diarrhoea effect' in it using stool samples deliberately infected with the superbug C. difficile.
Researchers found when the toilet lid was left open, the superbug was transported 10 inches above and on the toilet seat, plus a smaller amount was detected in the air up to 90 minutes later.
When the lid was put down while flushing, the bug could reach through the gap of the lid but there was a significantly lower level of it in the air. There was also no C. difficile recovered on nearby surfaces.
Ironically, most hospital toilets do not have toilet lids in a bid to stop cross-contamination when handling the seat. The study is urging hospitals to provide patients with the superbug with a toilet that has a lid.
"This contains smells and droplets that can become aerolised. Some bugs spread more easily to surfaces this way and the norovirus is thought to be one of them. Our advice - put down the lid if it's there and wash your hands afterwards," professor Mark Wilcox, Clinical Director of Microbiology, told the Daily Mail.
The norovirus has hit the headlines on numerous occasions this winter, with there being 46 suspected cases in under 2 weeks, causing double the amount of hospital bed closures and followed by scientists' claims that they may have found a cure.
If you're worried about catching the norovirus. although there is no treatment for the illness the NHS recommends taking the following precautions to help prevent the norovirus spreading:
Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, particularly after using the toilet and before preparing food.
Avoid sharing flannels and towels with anyone who has had or has the superbug, or anyone who may be exposed to it in any way.
Disinfect any surfaces or objects that could be contaminated with the virus. Wash the items separately and on a hot wash to ensure that the virus is killed.
Keep the toilet and surrounding area clean and disinfected to avoid any cross-contamination.
Avoid eating raw, unwashed produce and only eat oyster from a reliable source. Note that oysters are known to carry the virus.