Fish spa safety fears reignited following report
The risk of infection associated with garra rufa fish pedicures is likely to be 'very low' according to a report by the Health Protection Agency (HPA). However, the HPA advises salons that they should ask clients to sign a contraindications form confirming that they do not have any contraindications, including 'infection with a blood-borne virus such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV'. This statement has caused a stir in the consumer press, with headlines such as 'Trendy fish pedicures could spread HIV'. The HPA's report, which was commissioned in April, found that fish tank water has been shown to contain a number of microorganisms and that a fish spa setting therefore has the potential for transmission of a range of infections, either from fish to person (during the nibbling process), water to person (from the bacteria that can multiply in water), or person to person (via water, surrounding surfaces and fish). However, it ruled that the overall risk of infection is 'likely to be very low, if appropriate standards of hygiene are adhered to'. The HPA fish spa working group concluded that those with weakened immune systems or underlying medical conditions, including diabetes and psoriasis, are likely to be at increased risk of infection and so fish pedicures are not recommended for such individuals. Dr Hilary Kirkbride, consultant epidemiologist at the HPA, said: 'Provided that good standards of hygiene are followed by salons, members of the public are unlikely to get an infection from a fish spa pedicure, however the risk will be higher for certain people. 'This is why we feel it's important for salons to ensure the client has no underlying health conditions that could put them at risk, and that a thorough foot examination is performed, to make sure there are no cuts, grazes or existing skin conditions that could spread infection. THe HPA suggested that anyone considering a fish pedicure can help reduce the risk of infection by allowing cuts or infections on their feet or legs to heal before having the treatment, and waiting at least 24 hours after having a leg wax or shaving.