Dangerous infections: staphylococcus, mycosis, jaundice, HIV. Can you avoid them?

Nowadays our knowledge about protecting ourselves against infections is much greater than it was in recent past. However, many infections still occur. People quite often get infected with dangerous viruses and bacteria at such places like beauty salons, aesthetic medicine clinics, tattoo studios and hairdressing parlor. How we may avoid such infections?

Infections: Where potentially we might get infected with dangerous viruses and bacteria?

Most of us are not even aware of the dangers that can lurk in places like a beauty parlor, aesthetic medicine clinic, hairdresser or tattoo studio. Even simple procedures, such as nail styling, hair removal, beard styling, face treatments can be dangerous to our health. The most common types of infections that happen in abovementioned parlors are the following.

1. Hepatitis B virus

The HBV virus causes hepatitis B. It is the most common viral liver disease. According to the WHO (World Health Organization), currently 2 billion people have had an HBV infection and in 2015, 257 million suffered from chronic hepatitis B. Approximately 600 000 people die each year from the acute HBV infection or its complications. This virus is 100 times more infectious than HIV – simple contact even with a microscopic amount of blood can lead to infection. One might get infected with this virus due to break in the skin and by contact with the infected person’s blood, secretions and excretions. Infection can therefore occur during cosmetic or dental procedures or through sexual contact.

2. Hepatitis C virus

3% of world’s population is infected with the HCV virus that causes hepatitis C. The virus, discovered in 1989, is called the “silent killer”. It works in hiding and the infection itself can be asymptomatic. The HCV virus is transmitted through the blood – infection can occur during any damage to the skin or mucous membranes, for example during a visit to the beauty parlor. Anyone can be its carrier – and one may even not know it. It's estimated around 215 000 people in the UK have hepatitis C. In the UK, levels of awareness of infection are well above the 20% global average, but are still suboptimal, and positive test results do not always successfully link individuals into treatment and care services.

3. Human papillomavirus HPV

A human papillomavirus, known shortly as HPV virus, causes a number of different diseases, including cancer. HPV is a dangerous carcinogen that can cause cervical cancer as well as head and neck cancers. Infection with HPV can occur during sexual intercourse and through direct contact with the infected person’s skin. This virus attacks mainly the skin and the urogenital area. The infection not always gives any specific symptoms. On the contrary, most HPV infections are asymptomatic and resolve within weeks or months, but the carrier can still infect other people.

4. The HIV virus

The HIV virus, or human immunodeficiency virus, damages the human immune system. As the result, with disease’s progress, the organism cannot cope with even potentially harmless infections. HIV was first isolated in 1983 in the USA. HIV/AIDS is a notifiable disease in the United Kingdom and was first diagnosed in 1981. It is estimated that 35 million people are infected worldwide. HIV infection is transmitted through the blood (needlestick injuries, usage of objects contaminated with infected person’s blood) or during sexual contacts. It can be also passed from mother to child during pregnancy. The risk of infection with this virus is lower than with the HBV and HCV viruses, because much more blood is needed to get infected. The early period of infection is often asymptomatic or there are signs suggesting a cold or influenza. Over time, if the patient does not start specialistic treatment early enough, AIDS – acquired immune deficiency syndrome – may develop in his/her organism.

5. Staphylococcus and streptococcus infections

Infections with bacteria such as streptococcus and staphylococcus also present a serious risk. Staphylococcus aureus is one of the most dangerous microorganisms. Many carriers have this bacteria on their skin. When it comes to sensitive people though, it can generate many serious diseases such as skin abscesses, endocarditis, bone, lung and joint inflammation, and even septicemia which can sometimes lead to death. In addition, many strains of this bacterium are resistant to commonly used antibiotics – in such case curing the disease is a serious problem. Another dangerous and common bacterium is Staphylococcus epidermidis, which is part of the skin’s physiological flora, but can cause inflammation under certain circumstances. Also, a Group A streptococcus, Streptococcus pyogenes, cause many kinds of respiratory infections, dermatitis, periorbital infections, urinary tract infections and others. Streptococci are mainly airborne – it is enough for a sick person to cough or sneeze so that the bacteria pass on to another person. Staphylococcus and streptococcus infections most often occur in the area of treated skin.

Staphylococcal skin infections are mainly:

  • folliculitis,
  • sycosis, or chronic purulent folliculitis,
  • boils, or acute purulent folliculitis.

Streptococcal infections:

  • Erysipelas – inflammation of connective tissue and superficial blood vessels manifesting itself, among other things, with painful, red swelling on the skin
  • Fungal infections – Pityrosporum ovale, Candida sp., Epidermophyton sp.

The most common fungi are Candida and Pityrosporum yeasts, fungi of the genus Trichophyton and fungi that can cause severe general infections such as Aspergillus and Rhizopus. Fungi produce highly toxic substances called mycotoxins; they can cause serious poisoning and skin diseases. Candida albicans is a fungus naturally inhabiting the human organizm, present on the skin, within digestive tract and female genital organs. Candidosis (mycosis) occurs when these fungi multiply significantly. That situation can be caused by many factors, e.g. after prolonged use of antibiotics, during hormonal disorders or in the course of diabetes. Infection with Pityrosporum ovale causes seborrheic dandruff and may also exacerbate the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis. Trichophyton infection is the most common cause of tinea pedis.

6. Parasitic infections – Sacroptes scabiel, Demodex folliculorum

  • Sacroptes scabiel, or the itch mite, is a parasite that causes scabies. It is a very contagious skin disease. These parasites prefer warm places, that is why they are most often located between the fingers (intertoe mycosis), in the groin, genital area and under the breasts. One may get infected with scabies usually by direct contact with infected skin. Its main symptom is an itchy rash, particularly annoying at night.
  • Demodex folliculorum causes a disease called demodicosis, or red mange. It is carried along with dust, through contact with a sick person or e.g. by using the same personal things. Symptoms of infection include slight itching of the skin, inflammation of the glands and hair follicles.

What can infections lead to?

1. AIDS

Untreated HIV infection leads to the development of AIDS, an acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. AIDS occurs after a dozen or so years (8–10 years on average) in people who are not aware of the fact of carrying the virus. According to the WHO, since the beginning of the epidemic until the end of 2013, about 36 million infected people have died of AIDS. The first period of HIV infection is known as “acute retroviral disease”. It lasts up to several months, and gives symptoms such as headaches, muscle pains and lymphadenopathy. The next stage is the latent phase, which takes about 10 years. Within that period, the immune system is constantly weakened. AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection. The destroyed organism stops dealing with even seemingly harmless diseases. So called indicator diseases occur, and they allow the diagnosis of AIDS without additional testing. The most common causes of death for people with AIDS are infections and opportunistic cancers.

2. Tinea

Tinea is the most common skin disease. It is difficult to cure. It most often occurs on the feet, between the toes, on the nails and in the groin. Foot tinea is mainly caused by the Trichophyton fungus. The course of the disease is long lasting, often recurring. Its symptoms are epidermis exfoliation and itching. Nail fungus is the main problem of beauty salons. The nail plate becomes dull, often thickened, yellow and more brittle. A longitudinal furrow may also appear. The fungus is easily transferred to other people.

3. Jaundice

Jaundice of skin and whites of the eyes is one of the symptoms of liver diseases that can result from HCV and HBV infection. It is caused by accumulation of excess bilirubin, a product of haemoglobin degradation, in tissues. It may be accompanied by itching of the skin, darkening of the urine and discoloration of the stool. HBV and HCV viruses lead not only to jaundice, but also liver inflammation and cirrhosis, as well as liver cancers, which can even cause death.

Can you avoid infection?

The awareness about infections which may possibly happen during the performance of even potentially harmless and simple cosmetic treatments is fortunately growing both among the owners of parlors and their clients. Maintaining the basic principles of hygiene, regular disinfection and subsequent sterilization of reusable instruments are currently mandatory processes. In any parlor where skin break may happen during the procedures, such as beauty salon, dental parlor, tattoo studio or hairdressing salon, should have a device dedicated for sterilizing reusable instruments – an autoclave. This is the only way to ensure the safety of customers and employees and to minimize the risk of infection.

Where the autoclave should be located?

The autoclave should be located in:

  • a beauty salon,
  • an aesthetic medicine clinic,
  • a hairdressing salon,
  • a tattoo studio,
  • medical and dental parlors.

When we go to have even a simple procedure conducted, such as nail styling or hyaluronic acid injection, we should therefore ask if an autoclave is used in this parlor and reusable instruments regularly undergo the sterilization process.

Infections in United Kingdom and other countries

1. Hepatitis B

After the two databases were linked and reconciled, a total of 381 acute or probable acute cases of hepatitis B were reported for England in 2018. This gives an annual incidence of 0.68 per 100,000 populations lower than the incidence of 0.80 per 100,000 population reported for 2017.

2. Hepatitis C

It is estimated that around 214,000 people in the UK have chronic hepatitis C. Injecting drug use continues to be the commonest risk factor for hepatitis C infection in the UK. Hepatitis C is more common in men than women as men are more likely to inject drugs. Hepatitis C is more common in certain parts of the world, including North Africa, the Middle East, and Central and East Asia, and this is thought to result from the use of shared needles for vaccination or medical treatment. There are 325 million people suffering from hepatitis B and C worldwide.

3. HIV

In 2018, it was estimated that there are 103 800 people living with HIV in the UK.