Hepatitis May Lurk at Barbershops, Nail Salons

Better training, tighter controls needed to reduce infection risk, researcher says

TUESDAY, Nov. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Customers in nail salons and barbershops may be at risk for hepatitis infection if the tools used are improperly cleaned, a new U.S. study suggests.

While regulations for disinfecting instruments such as nail files and brushes, finger bowls, foot basins, razors, clippers and scissors may be enough to prevent hepatitis transmission, there is no guarantee that workers will follow those rules, the researchers said.

They analyzed a Virginia Department of Health report on the risk of hepatitis infection in nail salons and barber shops and were scheduled to present their findings Monday at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology in Washington, D.C.

"Whether there is sufficient compliance with disinfection requirements is an important variable in the safety of salon and barbershop services from a public health perspective," Dr. David A. Johnson, of Eastern Virginia Medical School, said in an ACG news release.

"The risk of transmission of infectious disease, particularly hepatitis B and C, in personal care settings is significantly understudied in the United States," he added.

The evaluation of hepatitis infection risk among patients in nail salons and barber shops was prompted by a reported case of acute hepatitis C that was "clearly related to a manicure/pedicure treatment," Johnson said.

The disease, which causes swelling of the liver, is serious and sometimes lasts a lifetime.

Customers can protect themselves by asking whether a nail salon or barbershop is properly cleaning and disinfecting tools and equipment, Johnson said. He also recommended bringing your own clippers, razors, nail files and other equipment to your appointments.

Recommendations to reduce the risk of hepatitis infection include proper training for nail salon and barbershop workers, education about how hepatitis and other blood-borne infections are transmitted, and an emphasis on the principles of good hygiene and disinfection. More stringent requirements governing personal hygiene, storage, disinfection and inspection are also recommended.

Currently, there are no federal government infection-control guidelines for the prevention of hepatitis infections in nail salons or barbershops.

Research presented at meetings has not been subjected to the rigorous scrutiny required for publication in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health explains how to protect yourself from hepatitis.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: American College of Gastroenterology, news release, Oct. 31, 2011

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