HARTLEPOOL fish pedicure salon owners fear their businesses may plunge into disarray on the back of a national health scare.
Hundreds of town residents have enjoyed the hugely popular fish pedicure, which sees tiny garra rufa fish nibble away at customers’ dead skin.
But salon bosses were left reeling after health experts warned that the trendy new treatment. which is blossoming around the world, could spread infections.
Business owners in the town were quick to defend the treatment, saying the claims were “totally exaggerated”.
They admitted they were concerned about the effect it will have on future trade and moved to reassure customers of the measures taken to ensure complete safety.
Joyce Griffiths, who owns Happy Feet Fish Spa and Beauty Salon, in the town’s York Road, said: “To be honest this is just scaremongering.
“We haven’t had any cancellations, but I do fear they may come.”
Joyce, 56, a mum-of-two who lives in the Foggy Furze area of Hartlepool and has owned her business for just over a year, added: “We have never once had a complaint.
“We are very meticulous and check the feet of every one of our customers before they start the treatment.
“If a customer is diabetic we tell them to contact their GP for permission.”
Despite concerns, the Health Protection Agency said the risk of infection is “likely to be very low.”
Experts said that as long as good standards of hygiene are followed by salons, members of the public are “unlikely” to get an infection.
Ashley Head, managaress of Bodybronze, in Front Street, Wingate, admitted she is worried about how people will respond to the reports.
She told the Mail: “We were only the second salon in the North-East to get the treatment and we were used as a bench mark by environmental health.
“These claims of the risks of infection are totally exaggerated, it’s not nice to hear.
“With any beauty treatment you have to follow the right procedures and that is exactly what we do.
“We are worried that this may affect us, and it shouldn’t do.
“As long as everybody follows the guidelines there are no risks.”
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.
“Anyone considering a fish pedicure can help reduce the risk of infection – both to themselves and others – by taking simple precautions.
“Allowing any cuts or infections you may have on your feet or legs to heal before having the treatment, and waiting at least 24 hours after having a leg wax or shaving, will minimise your chances of catching anything.
“If you do experience any ill effects after the treatment, you should visit your GP.”