Medical Minute 1-5:

By: Andrew McIntosh Email
By: Andrew McIntosh Email

From polishing to cleaning, Nancye Swanson does her own nails these days. Six months ago, she almost died from something she picked up at a salon.

"It felt like the flu."

Her skin looked yellow. Doctors told her that was a clear sign of hepatitis B, a serious liver infection. It happened while she was getting a pedicure.

"A lot of these places use sharp instruments and they could be re-using those," said Robert Gish, M.D., Clinical Professor UC San Diego.

Doctor Robert Gish is writing a health policy for the Vietnamese government on the spread of hepatitis B.

That's because every person born in the Asian Pacific region is at a high risk of already having it. That includes the thousands of people working in salons across the U.S. --and they may not even know they are a carrier.

"95 percent of people with hepatitis B have no symptoms. That's the problem."

While there is no cure, but a pill once a day will control it. That's what Nancye did.

"I cannot believe I was that close to death," said Nancye Swanson, Hepatitis B Patient.

Here are some ways you can protect yourself at the salon. First, make sure your salon's license is clearly posted. Scissors and clippers should be disinfected after each use and only disposable files should be used. Same goes for the pedicure bath and all suction screens in the tubs. That's where deadly bacteria gets trapped. Also, look for labels on products. If you don't see one, they could be diluted. And always-take your own polish. Simple steps to keep you safe at the spa.

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