In the following letter to the editor, an owner asks if getting a Hepatitis B vaccine is a practice all stylists should make routine. So, we put the question to a healthcare expert. Leslie Roste is a registered nurse and the national director of education and new markets for King Research, the manufacturer of Barbicide:

Dear SALON TODAY: As hairdressers, we are around a lot of people every single day. What is the risk of a stylist in our industry contracting Hepatitis? When one of our stylists had her last physical, her doctor recommended that she get the three rounds of the Hepatitis B vaccine to protect her for life. How common is this? Is this the industry standard? Should we be recommending this to all our stylists? --Jason Hall, RED 7 Salon, Chicago and Evanston, Illinois

Do you need a Hepatitis B Vaccine?Leslie Roste: "Hepatitis B is a potentially life-threatening infection that can cause chronic liver disease and puts people at high risk of death from cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. It is blood borne, which means you run the risk of contracting them when you come into contact with blood or body fluid of an infected person. Unfortunately, many people who have this disease have no symptoms and therefore do not know they are infected, so they can pass the disease on unknowingly.

"The Hepatitis B vaccine is a series of three shots, and all newborns have been immunized with the series for about the past 15 years, although the vaccine has been available since the mid 80s. The highest risk age group for the disease would be people over age 20 who have not been immunized.

"With those facts in mind, the only industry where immunization is required is the healthcare industry, due to the higher probability of blood contact throughout one's career. Although it would not be a waste of time or money for a cosmetologist to get immunized, it will never be a requirement for this industry. That said, if stylists are disinfecting their implements properly and practicing other important aspects of infection control, such as good hand-washing, the risk should be minimal.

"If you ask me, I would prefer all stylists get a Flu shot this season over the Hep B series!"

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