An outbreak of bacterial infections linked to pedicure foot spas poses new mysteries for public health detectives. It also shows there is still a lot of confusion among nail technicians and salon owners about proper cleaning procedures. To protect yourself, do your homework!
The news stories out of California are a sickening déjà vu: People show up at their doctors’ offices with ugly, pus-filled sores all over their lower legs. The sores are traced back to a pedicure service weeks or months before the appearance of pimply bumps that turn purplish, then seep and spread.
Victims take antibiotics for months. Summer fun and fashion bring misery, as women agonize over how to hide weeping sores and nasty scars. They contemplate plastic surgery and million dollar lawsuits.
Investigators find it was all preventable, caused by bacteria in improperly cleaned — or uncleaned — pedicure foot spas.
The first major outbreak infected at least 110 people in 2,000 in a high-volume, discount salon in Watsonville, Calif.
Now, it’s happening again. In late 2004, infections cropped up in nearby San Jose. By March, the count was more than 140 victims. By then, another outbreak appeared in nearby Contra Costa County, with at least six victims.
More cases are popping up all over North America. Spa manufacturers, industry leaders, and state boards are responding with educational efforts and new regulations.
As awareness spreads, salons owners and nail technicians are also taking steps to improve cleanliness. But if you feel confident that your establishment is not one of “those” salons, think again. Even among technicians who are aware of the problem and have sanitation procedures in place, many are mistaken about the right way to clean their pedicure spas.