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Tattoo Parlors Linked to Spread of Hepatitis C

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  • claudine intexas
    Friday April 6 1:30 PM ET Tattoo Parlors Linked to Spread of Hepatitis C By Merritt McKinney NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Tattooing may be an overlooked source
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 6, 2001
      Friday April 6 1:30 PM ET
      Tattoo Parlors Linked to Spread of Hepatitis C

      By Merritt McKinney

      NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Tattooing may be an
      overlooked source of hepatitis C infections, Texas
      researchers report.

      In their study, which was conducted in the early
      1990s, people who received tattoos at a commercial
      tattoo parlor were more than six times as likely to
      have hepatitis C than people who did not have tattoos.

      Nearly 4 million Americans have hepatitis C, making it
      the most common chronic viral infection in the US.
      Chronic inflammation of the liver develops in about
      70% of infected patients, and about 20% of people with
      hepatitis will develop cirrhosis, a severe and
      possibly fatal scarring of the liver. Cirrhosis
      increases the risk of liver cancer.

      Hepatitis C is spread through contact with blood and
      other body fluids, but the route of transmission
      remains undetermined in a substantial percentage of

      Commercial tattooing is an important ``missing risk
      factor'' in the spread of hepatitis C, Dr. Robert W.
      Haley of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical
      Center in Dallas told Reuters Health in an interview.

      Haley and his co-author, Dr. R. Paul Fischer of
      Presbyterian Hospitals of Dallas, conducted a study of
      626 patients seeing a physician for spinal problems.
      Each patient was asked about a number of potential
      risk factors for hepatitis C. After the interview, the
      study participants were screened for the virus.

      Writing in the March issue of the journal Medicine,
      the researchers report that 18% of all patients had at
      least one tattoo. Twenty-two percent of patients with
      tattoos were infected with hepatitis C, compared with
      only 3.5% of patients without tattoos. The hepatitis C
      rate was about 33% in patients who had been tattooed
      at a commercial tattoo parlor rather than at home or
      at another location.

      The risk for hepatitis C was even higher in patients
      with more complicated or more colorful tattoos, the
      authors note.

      According to Haley, hepatitis C can be transmitted if
      a tattoo artist does not properly sterilize needles or
      other equipment. And, he added, some of the equipment
      used is extremely difficult to sterilize thoroughly.
      Haley pointed out that regulation of tattoo parlors
      varies widely from place to place, with no regulations
      in place in about one third of states.

      The researchers conclude that in the face of the
      potential risk of tattooing, regulations on commercial
      tattoo parlors should be strengthened.

      Several previous studies have detected a link between
      tattoos and an increased risk of hepatitis C, the
      report indicates. Not all research has supported the
      connection, however.

      Besides tattoos, other major risk factors for
      infection were injection-drug use, certain hospital
      jobs (for men only) and heavy beer drinking. Haley
      explained that drinking alcohol does not transmit
      hepatitis C, but heavy drinking can make the liver
      more susceptible to the virus.

      The researchers did not detect an increased risk of
      hepatitis C in patients who had had blood
      transfusions, which can spread the virus, or in
      patients with multiple sexual partners.

      SOURCE: Medicine March 2001.

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