Oregon Board News - March 2007

Oregon Avoids Outbreaks, Deserves Applause 

Our fall and winter series focusing on safety and infection control continues.  The first three columns in the series focused on hand washing, disinfection and disposal, and infection control.  Specific Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR) numbers are included for your reference. 

The distressing news came from northern California in 2000 and 2004.  Hundreds of nail salon customers caught nasty leg infections from improperly cleaned and disinfected footbaths.    

Left with scars or worse, these damaged customers sued the owner of the nail salon, Fancy Nails, responsible for the initial outbreak in Watsonville, California.  After nearly four years of litigation, 73 customers settled for a split of nearly $3 million in what appeared to be the first litigated case related to a nail salon outbreak.  The multiple salons found responsible for the 2004 outbreaks in San Jose are also being sued.   

Now the good news:  Oregon has yet to suffer an outbreak of infections caused by improperly cleaned and disinfected footbaths.  But that doesn’t mean that Oregon practitioners are always following state regulations meant to prevent such outbreaks from occurring. 

Enforcement officers of the Oregon Health Licensing Agency (OHLA) who regularly inspect cosmetology facilities throughout the state provide me with enough examples of practitioners who are not following regulatory requirements and are putting their customers at risk. 

Still, it seems as though the majority of Oregon practitioners are following those requirements, substantially reducing the chance of Oregon customers experiencing the pain, suffering and scars experienced by those in California.  

So, how about a round of applause for those practitioners?  Good job! 

Don’t Rest on Your Laurels 

OK, now that the applause is subsiding, I should tell you that there have been reports of individual skin infections in Oregon similar to those in the California outbreaks.  I’m not sure if they were conclusively linked to a nail salon, but just because Oregon hasn’t had an outbreak doesn’t mean we should relax. 

The more recent San Jose outbreak involved a different type of bacteria.  I’m not a scientist, but it seems as though new and different types of nasty little microbes keep surfacing if given the chance.   

OHLA is working with the Department of Human Services, Public Health Division, to track any potential outbreaks or individual cases.  Practitioners can help the public protection effort by reviewing state requirements and going above and beyond in insuring their footbaths are free of infectious microbes. 

Oregon regulations regarding footbath safety and infection control are short and simple:  Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) 817-010-0101(5) states:  “Foot spa equipment shall be cleaned and disinfected with a high-level disinfectant after use on each client.” 

OHLA provides practitioners with more detailed, step-by-step instructions (including the requirement to remove and clean/disinfect screens after each use!) in a free brochure that can be downloaded from ourWeb site at www.oregon.gov/OHLA or requested by calling the agency at 503-378-8667.   

And don’t forget client record requirements (also in brochure format), established to contact customers potentially affected by an infection outbreak should one ever occur in Oregon.  These brochures are reprinted for your convenience in this month’s Oregon Regulatory News. 

Beyond that, there are several other factors involved in keeping your customers safe and sound.   

Don’t Shave Before Service 

One of the most effective ways to prevent transmission of infectious microbes that isn’t a regulatory requirement is suggesting to your customers that they don’t shave their legs prior to a pedicure. 

Why?  Shaving may create tiny breaks in the skin that provide a more likely route for microbes to invade an unsuspecting customer.   

Besides using a high-level disinfectant, you should also be aware of the different types of cleaners to use beforedisinfection.  Basically, there are two types (enzymatic and surfactant) that work well to break down the build-up of dead skin, oils, lotions and other “bio-films” that can be found in footbaths. 

There are EPA-registered disinfectant products that include these types of cleaners, offering one-step cleaning and disinfection. 

The key tip to remember is that if you don’t break down the build-up of “bio-film” in the first place the disinfectant is less likely to do its important job of actually killing the microbes. 

Once again, give yourself a hand if you’re doing everything you can to prevent transmission of microbes while providing footbath services.  And, once again, if you have any questions or need clarification, contact OHLA at your convenience. 

Kraig Bohot is Communications Officer at the Oregon Health Licensing Agency (OHLA), a state consumer protection agency providing centralized regulatory oversight of multiple health and related professions.  He can be reached at (503) 378-8667, ext. 4330 or at kraig.bohot@state.or.us.

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