> Saturday | April 7, 2001
> Tattoos are top risk for hepatitis C, study says
> Local findings contradict previous data on
> contracting virus
> By Kim Horner / The Dallas Morning News
> Tattoos are the leading cause of hepatitis C,
> according to a study released Wednesday by local
> researchers. The study found that tattoos from
> commercial parlors caused about 40 percent of the
> cases of the potentially fatal virus, which attacks
> the liver and causes cirrhosis and cancer.
> "We need to warn the public that this is not
> necessarily a safe practice, and there may be
> long-term consequences here," said Dr. Robert Haley,
> University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
> chief of epidemiology and co-author of the study.
> Hepatitis C is the most common chronic viral
> infection and affects nearly 2 percent of the
> nation's population. There are currently more than
> 4,800 reported cases in Dallas County.
> In 1998, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
> Prevention published information saying tattooing
> was not a risk factor for hepatitis C. Only 1
> percent of patients reported a history of tattooing,
> the agency said, noting that no data exist to show
> tattoos caused an increased risk for hepatitis C.
> In the newly released study, which was published in
> the March issue of the journal Medicine, Dr. Paul
> Fischer of Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas
> interviewed 626 people in North Texas in 1991 and
> 1992 about their risk factors for hepatitis C.
> His data found 52 people with tattoos from
> commercial parlors, over 33 percent of whom were
> infected with hepatitis C. The people with tattoos
> could not be linked to any other risk factors,
> researchers said. Only 3.5 percent of patients
> without tattoos were infected.
> People who received tattoos in a commercial parlor
> were nine times more likely to be infected with the
> virus than people without tattoos, according to the
> Dr. Haley said hepatitis C could be spread by the
> reuse of needles or dye during tattooing, inadequate
> sterilization and other unsafe practices. Dr. Haley
> recommended that anyone with tattoos be tested for
> the virus, which may not display symptoms for 10 to
> 30 years. If caught early, hepatitis C can be
> Researchers said they did not release the study for
> nearly a decade after the data were collected
> because they thought other research articles would
> address the issue. But that didn't happen, Dr. Haley
> said. Dr. Haley said the 1998 CDC findings
> influenced researchers to present their study and
> show evidence to the contrary.
> Mark Thompson, tattoo artist at Trilogy Tattoo and
> Obscurities Body Piercing in Oak Lawn, said that he
> had not seen the study but that he was skeptical of
> its findings. Industry standards have improved
> significantly in recent years, he said, as has
> scrutiny from the Health Department.
> Mr. Thompson said most tattoo artists use strict
> sterilization procedures for their own health as
> well as their clients'. But he agreed with the
> study's findings that state inspectors should keep a
> close watch on the industry. "There's a bad shop
> here and there, just like there's a bad doctor or
> bad dentist," Mr. Thompson said.
> The study's findings weren't surprising to Ian
> Mohan, head piercer at Cat Tattoo in Addison who
> also does tattoos. His shop has strict sterilization
> standards, but many do not, he said. "If you go
> into a clean shop, it's perfectly safe," he said.
> Dr. Haley said that though the Texas Department of
> Health regulates tattoo parlors, the industry has
> not faced close scrutiny because of a lack of
> evidence linking tattoos to infections such as
> hepatitis C.
> He said the study lists tattoos as the top behavior
> risk for contracting the virus, surpassing even
> intravenous drug use, blood transfusions and
> hospital workers stuck with needles.
> Dr. Haley said the risk is lower for other
> blood-borne diseases such as HIV, which causes AIDS.
> That's because hepatitis C is more easily passed
> through a small amount of blood than HIV.
> (c) 2001 The Dallas Morning News<br
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