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Infections & Risk: What you should know

We come in contact with a variety of bacteria and viruses every day, and rarely suffer ill effects.  However, if we are not careful, these germs can infect us through our skin and cause problems, some of them severe.

What Germs Are We Talking About?
Nail salons are most concerned about three varieties. One is known as mycobacterium fortuitum.  These bacteria live in soil and water and can wind up on our skin. They generally cause no problems, but if conditions are right - if there enough nutrients around to feed on, and if the temperature hits a specific warm range - these bacteria can multiply rapidly. This is when they can cause problems for people. During that time, if they come in contact with a cut, scrape or other opening in someone's skin, the germs can infect the skin, causing painful and unsightly eruptions, and spread quickly.   

Nail fungus creates another concern. This fairly common condition can invade fingernails, but generally occurs (if it occurs) under the toenails because feet stay warmer and more moist. The infection causes the nail to discolor, grow oddly and sometimes crumble at the edges of the nail.The parasite that causes nail fungus can be passed to another person, which most commonly happens at the gym or health club, especially in shower facilities. Never go barefoot at the gym, and always wear shower shoes into the shower. People with diabetes, circulation problems or a weakened immune system are the most likely to get it.

Nail technicians are trained to spot these infections, and should not to perform any manicures or pedicures on infected clients.  Better salons take simple precautions to ensure it doesn't happen.
If you think you may have any sort of skin infection or nail fungus, see a doctor immediately.  Do not go in for a manicure or pedicure. 

Staph
Bacteria known as Staphylococcus aureus, or staph, are one of the most common causes of skin infections.  About one in three people at any time carry staph on the skin or in the nose - meaning there's a one-in-three chance you have staph on your skin right now.  These germs typically cause no problems.  However, they can survive on nearly any surface you can touch, and can infect even the smallest cut or break in the skin.

Most of these infections are minor, causing an outbreak on the skin's surface, and are easily treated.  Some strains, however, have learned to survive many of the antibiotics that used to kill them.  These strains, known as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), are nasty and can cause severe, even life-threatening infections.

Doctors began to see the MRSA types of staph in health care facilities during the 1970s.  During the 1990s, these strains began showing up in certain places out in the community.  The spread and a rise in the number of cases has created a great deal of concern, which is why Regal is doing what it can to educate the public. 

Symptoms of Staph
Most infections will start out looking like a pimple or boil, and can have drainage.  The area is generally red, swollen warm to the touch and painful, and the infection can cause fever.  More serious infections, if untreated, can cause a range of severe problems that could be life-threatening.

The Good News
The good news is that most staph and MRSA infections are treatable with antibiotics or treatments on the skin itself.  It is important not to panic about MRSA - infections are still relatively uncommon.  The best news is that all staph infections, including MRSA, can largely be prevented by taking a few precautions. 

Where it is Found
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found higher concentrations of staph in the following places.  This does NOT mean these locations are necessarily dangerous places to be.  It DOES mean you have to be aware of the need to take precautions. 
    Schools
    Dormitories
    Military barracks and training camps
    Prisons
    Crowded living conditions
    Households
    Daycare centers
    Hospitals
    Healthcare facilities (long-term care, nursing homes, doctors' offices)
    Gyms, health clubs, athletic settings
    Locker rooms and shower facilities

Also, keep in mind that staph can live on a variety of surfaces.  Be aware of anything or anyone you touch.  Some of the surfaces where staph is most commonly found:
    Gym equipment
    Shopping cart handles
    Door knobs and handles
    Nearly any surface in a hospital: bedrails, catheters, cart handles,
        telephones, remote controls
    Hands of hospital workers and health care workers

Who is more at risk to get an infection and carry an infection?
Only 15% of MRSA cases have occurred in the general community (outside the hospital), but it pays to take precautions anywhere you go.  If you fall into the following categories, take extra precautions - you are at somewhat higher risk. 
    Currently or recently hospitalized
    Residents in a long term care facility
    Using invasive devices (on dialysis, catheterized, or have feeding tubes). 
    Recent antibiotic use
    Someone with serious underlying health problems such as:
        Diabetes
        Poor circulation in feet and hands
        Chronic illness
        Weakened immune system
    Older adults
    Children
    Medical professionals and other health care workers
    Athletes (professional and amateur - especially contact sports)
    Workers in athletic facilities
    Health care workers
    Health club workers
    Military members
    People living in crowded conditions
    People living in unsanitary conditions

Sources:
Mayo Clinic
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention