Some people will do anything to stay famous. The latest attempt: TikTok’s latest “Coronavirus Challenge” showing a woman licking a public toilet seat.
TikTok is no stranger to dangerous and unsavory challenges. The route to 15 seconds of fame has included ill-advised “tripping challenges” and a highly illegal (and possibly sickening) “DIY Alcohol” video. This challenge, however, is highly anti-social and flies in the face of the precautions against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Uploaded on Sunday, the woman (username Avalouiise), licks a toilet seat. It’s surmised by some that the toilet is actually inside an airplane. One tweet response to the challenge: “That lady will get more than Corona licking that toilet seat.”
Normally, the likelihood of contracting just about anything of substance (beyond disgust) from a toilet seat is actually small. Dr. Stephen Morse, professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, told Popular Science that “[It] depends on what you do with the toilet seat. I can imagine the rare instance, but I think that it’s a low-probability event.”
While there is evidence that COVID-19 can be spread through contact with infected feces, it’s not as likely. Under normal circumstances, anyway.
“If it lives on a toilet seat, it cannot infect you by just being picked up on the skin of your rump,” Dr. David Eisenman, director of the UCLA Center for Public Health and Disasters, said to Popular Science. “You still have to somehow get it into your mouth or nose or eyes.”
Licking the seat, however, is entering into unknown territory.
In Singapore, the virus was found in hospital rooms virtually everywhere, from doorknobs and light switches to air fans and toilets. And bathrooms, in particular, have a novel way of spreading contagion, through the flushing action of the toilet itself.
“When you flush a toilet, a so-called plume cloud results. That and air-blown hand dryers are very effective ways of spreading viruses around a bathroom,” Dr. Greg Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group, told WebMD.
Avalouiise, then, is as likely to contract COVID-19 from entering the bathroom itself. Licking the toilet adds an extra special disgust factor, one which fortunately hasn’t caught on with TikTok viewers.
“It boils my blood seeing people act so stupidly to the virus,” another Twitter account wrote. “Starting ‘Corona Challenge’ by licking things…… hoarding sanitizer and TP like it’ll do something. Common sense ain’t so common anymore.”
The best defense against COVID-19 includes frequent hand washing, using Purell if available, disinfecting surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, keys and phones. Social distancing, meaning staying six feet away from other people and limiting face to face contact, helps slow the spread of the virus.
The challenge appears to have been removed from TikTok. It did not go viral.