Montgomery County health officials are warning customers of the Galaxy Nail Spa in Miami Twp. that they may have been exposed to tuberculosis after one of the salon’s technicians tested positive for an active form of the bacterial infection last month.
Free skin tests for the disease, which primarily affects the lungs and can cause respiratory failure, will be available from noon to 4 p.m. Monday, and from 8 a.m. to noon Tuesday at the Public Health -Dayton & Montgomery County offices on the second floor of the Reibold Building at 117 South Main St., said spokesman Bill Wharton.
Wharton said it’s hard to estimate how many customers may have been effected because business at the salon is erratic, and testing results will not be known until either Wednesday or Thursday.
Health officials are most concerned about regular customers who have made repeat visits to the nail salon over the past several months, because the longer a customer has been exposed to the airborne bacteria the higher their risk for contracting the disease, Wharton said.
“We’re just trying to make sure than anyone who was exposed to this person that had TB gets in for testing,” he said. “How much at risk you are has a lot to do with No. 1, how strong your immune system is, and No. 2, how long you’ve been exposed.”
Wharton said the salon is now safe, but he encouraged anyone who visited the salon before March 1 to get tested.
“We’re going back to March 1 just to be certain,” he said. “We’re sure she would not have been contagious at any time prior to that.”
Hoang Lee, whose wife owns the nail salon, said the female employee recently diagnosed with active TB had previously been diagnosed and treated for a latent form of the disease.
“She was treated for TB a couple of years ago and then came back to work,” Lee said. “She started coughing last month. She thought it was an allergy and found out it was TB.”
The salon employee’s case is not unusual, said Maureen Murphy-Weiss, TB controller for the Ohio Department of Health.
About 7 to 10 percent of the U.S. population and about 30 percent of the world population has the bacteria in their bodies, but it causes no symptoms and is not contagious in its inactive state.
“There’s a big distinction between latent TB infection and tuberculosis disease,” Murphy-Weiss said. “One is contagious and the person is sick and potentially infectious and able to spread it to others. Latent TB is not infectious and not a threat to the public’s health.”
Still, treatment of latent TB — which typically involves taking a cocktail of antibiotics for up to six months — is recommended to prevent the emergence of the active form, marked by symptoms including coughing, unintentional weight loss, fatigue and cold sweats.
Because of its ability to spread rapidly, TB is one of several contagious diseases that doctors are required to report to their health departments, said Dr. Thomas Herschline, the health department’s medical director.
But the disease has been in decline for much of the past decade, and local cases are rare — averaging less than 10 cases a year, Herschline said.
“We have very few cases on an annual basis,” he said. “The difference with this case is that she would have had face-to-face encounters with so many people because of her profession.”