Are urinary tract infections (UTIs) contagious?
Picture of UTI Infection spreads to One or Both Kidneys
The answer depends upon what microbe is infecting the urinary tract. The urinary tract consists of the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys, each of which can become infected with different microbes. Urinary tract infections usually arise from organisms that are normally present in (colonizing) the person's gut and/or urethral opening. These organisms (for example, bacteria such as E. coli or Pseudomonas infect the urinary tract by relocating against the flow of urine (retrograde) toward the kidneys.
Lower urinary tract infections do not involve the kidneys while upper urinary tract infections involve the kidneys and are typically more severe. These types of infections of the urinary tract are almost never contagious to other individuals. This article will not consider STDs and the organisms that cause STDs as urinary tract infections as they are discussed in other articles. However, STDs are often contagious and are transferred to others during intercourse, while UTIs are not usually transmitted by intercourse, so UTIs are rarely contagious to a partner. In addition, women who are sexually active and those individuals (males and females) who have anal intercourse have an increased chance to develop a UTI.
It is unlikely for anyone to get a UTI or STD from a toilet seat, as the urethra in males and females typically wouldn't touch the toilet seat. It is theoretically possible to transfer infectious organisms from a toilet seat to a buttock or thigh cut or sore and then have the organisms spread to the urethra or genitals. Nevertheless, such transmission of UTIs and/or STDs are highly unlikely.
How long before I know I have an infection of the urinary tract?
The incubation period (time of exposure to time symptoms begin) varies with the microbe. In general, common urinary tract infections with colonizing bacteria, like E. coli, varies from about three to eight days.
How are urinary tract infections spread?
Bacterial infections of the urinary tract are almost never spread to others if the infecting organisms originate from the bacteria normally colonizing the individual (for example, E. coli).
What are urinary tract infection symptoms and signs?
Lower urinary tract infection
- Bladder (cystitis): The lining of the urethra and bladder becomes inflamed and irritated.
- Dysuria: pain or burning during urination
- Frequency: more frequent urination (or waking up at night to urinate, sometimes referred to as nocturia); often with only a small amount of urine
When should I seek medical care for a urinary tract infection (UTI)?
For symptoms of itching and/or burning on urination or discomfort with urination, people should seek help within 24 hours. Individuals who may develop an upper urinary tract infection (kidney involvement with flank pain, for example) should seek medical help immediately.
When are urinary tract infections no longer contagious?
Simple lower and upper urinary tract infections caused by bacteria residing in the patient are not considered to be contagious. Clinicians suggest people are cleared of lower urinary tract infections after about three to seven days of antibiotic treatment and upper urinary tract (kidneys) infections by about 10-14 days after treatment. Some individuals with kidney infection may benefit from an initial IV dose of antibiotics followed by oral antibiotics.
Bladder Infections: UTI Causes, Symptoms, Treatments
Medically Reviewed on 11/15/2019
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Am Fam Physician. 88.9 Nov. 1, 2013: 577-578.
United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Urinary Tract Infection." Apr. 17, 2015. <http://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/community/for-patients/common-illnesses/uti.html>.