The story of the California salon where an outbreak of mycobacterial furunculosis occurred had been long dormant—a cautionary tale for the nail industry that faded as a hot topic, definitely overshadowed by the latest horror stories led by the “20/20” segment on MMA. But the Watsonville pedicure story, like a cat, has many lives. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had pursued a scientific explanation for how it happened. The bacterial outbreak had stymied the CDC for two reasons: the bacterium that caused the outbreak is very common in municipal water, so how did it reach such virulent proportions to cause the problems in the clients that it did? And second, if the conditions in the salon contributed to it, why then were outbreaks not more common in nail salons with the pedicure units?
The CDC compared their findings in the salon in question with other salons in the area and published its case in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. When the nail industry makes the Journal, you know it’s big, and now the 18-month-old story is very much alive again. Advance PR on the article initiated several media stories, most with headlines along the lines of this one on WebMD.com: “That Manicure or Pedicure Could Make You Sick.” The Canadian Associated Press (an organization that provides news to other news outlets) picked up the story and in one day, I fielded several calls for comments on the story, and was even a guest on a Canadian radio talk show, where callers were asking what they should know before getting a pedicure.
Regardless of whether this story made the news or was the subject of the chat groups, it’s an extremely important issue in my opinion. Frankly, I think we should, as an industry, spend more time focused on how to clean up—literally—our industry than cracking down on MMA. I believe that poor salon sanitation poses a greater threat to the industry and to the reputation of the industry in the minds of consumers than any other. At the heart of Watsonville, after you clear away the CDC, the new guidelines, the board’s involvement, and the Canadian press, you have a salon sanitation issue. And this is the issue we all need to stay focused on.
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