A beauty spa in Albuquerque, New Mexico has been shut down by health authorities amid fears that clients who received treatments including so-called 'vampire facials' may have been exposed to blood-borne infections.
In a statement issued on Monday, the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) advises anybody who recently received any type of injection-based treatment at the 'VIP Spa' on Tijeras Avenue to get their blood tested for infections.
"It is very important that anyone who received a vampire facial or other injection-related service at the VIP Spa in May or June of 2018 come to the Midtown Public Health Office for free and confidential lab testing and counselling," says NMDOH Cabinet Secretary Lynn Gallagher.
Vampire facials, for those who aren't aware of the treatment, have attracted a fair bit of buzz in cosmetic circles, after being popularised by Kim Kardashian and other celebrities.
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Basically, it's a non-surgical procedure where blood is drawn from the client with a needle.
Then, the blood is placed in a centrifuge, which spins it at high speed to separate the plasma (including platelet-rich plasma, or PRP) from other blood components.
PRP contains growth factors and proteins that some think are beneficial when applied to skin and other parts of the body.
In vampire facials, to enhance absorption of the PRP by the skin, the person receives either microneedling or microdermabrasion across their face, and the PRP extracted from their blood is then slathered over their skin.
A more involved procedure called a vampire facelift goes one step further, injecting the PRP into the skin, rather than simply smearing it over the face.
The concern at VIP Spa, after an inspection by NMDOH and other health authorities last Friday, is that unsafe practices undertaken by the spa in carrying out these kinds of treatments could have potentially spread blood-borne infections such as HIV and hepatitis B and C to clients.
According to NMDOH, the inspection was undertaken after one of VIP Spa's customers developed an infection that could have come from the spa, although at this point authorities are saying they're at an early stage of the investigation, and the most important thing now is that anyone who might be at risk comes in for testing.
NMDOH epidemiologist Michael Landen told KOAT Action News that one primary concern identified at the facility was its storage, handling, and disposal of needles.
"That's concerning," Landen said, "because if needles aren't handled appropriately, you could potentially increase the risk of a blood-borne infection."
The owner of the spa, Luly Ruiz, says she is cooperating with the health officials, but insists she only uses disposable needles.
"I open them in front of my clients every time they come," she said.
"I want everybody to be sure, everybody to be happy and to know they don't have anything."
That might be the case, but according to NMDOH, the premises is not licensed to draw blood – which only a medical professional can legally do – so at this point it looks like vampire facials at least should never have been performed at the spa.
We can only hope no serious infections arise out of this breach, while NMDOH awaits the lab results of VIP clients who do come in to get tested.
As a report by KOB 4 Eyewitness News makes clear, for those customers whose health may have been seriously compromised, it's an anxious waiting game.
"I know if something is already in me," one anonymous woman said, "it's not like I can do anything about it."