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Hepatitis Awareness at the Nail Salon

Nicole Cutler L.Ac. February 2, 2012

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It’s hard to imagine that intravenous drug use and mani-pedis have much in common, but they both harbor the potential to spread viral hepatitis.

A standard component of many hygiene and aesthetic routines, people (both women and men) from a wide range of backgrounds customarily visit their local nail salon. Although few individuals recognize the medical risks associated with this common practice, there is little doubt that nail technicians who don’t strictly follow infection control guidelines are in a prime position to spread viral hepatitis. Whether you want to prevent spreading your ailment or protect yourself and others from acquiring this kind of viral illness, make certain the nail salon you frequent is aware of and implements a strict infection control policy.

Those who are diagnosed with chronic Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C are commonly taught how to prevent passing their infection on to other members of their household. Although not spread via casual contact – like hugging, holding hands or sharing food – viral hepatitis is spread through blood-to-blood contact. Known vehicles for microscopic (and easily overlooked) quantities of infectious blood are personal care items. Since tiny blood particles can be transferred from razors, nail clippers, cuticle sticks or clippers, sharing any of these items can lead to a new Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C infection. Most with chronic hepatitis know better than to share these kinds of tools in their home; however, people who visit a nail salon usually fail to realize that the same risk applies there.

Unfortunately, an increasing number of chronic hepatitis cases are being attributed to poor sanitary practices at nail salons. Recently presented at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology in Washington DC, researchers analyzed a Virginia Department of Health report on the risk of hepatitis in this type of setting. According to Dr. David A. Johnson of Eastern Virginia Medical School, “The risk of transmission of infectious disease, particularly hepatitis B and C, in personal care settings is significantly understudied in the United States.”

Regardless of the results that emerge from the studies recommended by Johnson, increasing public awareness of infection control by nail technicians is a necessity. Experts suggest the following to reduce the risk of spreading hepatitis in a nail salon:

  • Proper training for all nail salon workers.
  • Education about how hepatitis and other blood-borne infections are transmitted.
  • Emphasis on the principles of good hygiene and disinfection.
  • Strict requirements on personal hygiene, storage, disinfection and inspection.

Currently, there are no federally mandated infection control guidelines for the prevention of hepatitis in nail salons. Since nationwide consumer protection is lacking, licensing requirements lie with local government agencies. As such, salons are regulated by the individual state or municipality they are located in.

Cities like Boston are being more proactive than others to make manicures and pedicures safe for customers. In 2011, the Boston Public Health Commission voted to require annual licensing and regular inspections of the city’s nail salons. Under the new regulation, tools have to either be cleaned and disinfected after each use or disposed of, foot spas have to be sanitized after each customer and at the end of the day, and nail technicians have to wear impermeable gloves when handling potentially dangerous chemicals or when performing any procedures with the risk of breaking the client’s skin. Although this legislation was primarily enacted to protect the health of nail salon workers, it also serves to protect against the spread of viruses like hepatitis.

Regardless of the safety precautions that nail technicians should follow, there are gaping violations in infection control practices in a substantial number of salons. The following is intended to help guide educated consumers on how to safely receive a manicure or pedicure:

  • Ask the salon staff how they clean and disinfect their equipment.
  • Observe the nail technicians to check for tools being reused without being sterilized.
  • Bring your own clippers, razors, buffers and nail files with you.
  • If hygiene doesn’t seem to be a salon’s priority, take your business elsewhere.

Getting a manicure or pedicure is supposed to be an enjoyable, relaxing experience. Unfortunately, the possibility of acquiring a viral hepatitis infection is a real threat when visiting a salon that does not practice good infection control. Until there is better legislation and enforcement of nail salons in the U.S., being an educated consumer offers significant protection. By inquiring about and observing the hygiene of your chosen salon – and bringing your own personal care tools – you can be an educated consumer and reduce your risk of acquiring viral hepatitis.

References:

http://files.nailsmag.com/Handouts/NAILSDisinfectionChart.pdf, NAILS State-by-State Guide to Disinfection Regulations, Retrieved January 27, 2011, NAILS Magazine, August 2008.

http://naturalsociety.com/nail-salon-manicures-pedicures-spreading-hepatitis-b/, Some Nail Salon Manicures and Pedicures Spreading Hepatitis B, Anthony Gucciardi, Retrieved January 23, 2012, Natural Society, 2012.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/14/hepatitis-nail-salon_n_1091725.html, Hepatitis And Nail Salons: What You Need to Know, Deborah Dunham, Retrieved January 23, 2012, TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc., 2012.

http://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/news/2011/10/hepatitis-transmission-risk-in-nail-salons-barbershops-needs-to-be-studied.aspx, Hepatitis Transmission Risk in Nail Salons, Barbershops Needs to be Studied, Retrieved January 23, 2012, Virgo Publishing, LLC, 2012.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_118196.html, Hepatitis May Lurk at Barbershops, Nail Salons, Robert Preidt, Retrieved January 23, 2012, HealthDay, 2012.

http://www.universalhub.com/2011/new-regulations-put-bite-nail-salons, New Regulation Puts Bite on Nail Salons, Retrieved January 27, 2012, Adam Gaffin, 2012.

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