October 18, 2019
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Hepatitis reportedly linked to unlicensed tattoo operation in East Machias

Matt Borowick | BDN
Matt Borowick | BDN
File photo of a tattoo needle inking skin.

An unlicensed tattoo artist has been working for at least six months under allegedly unsanitary conditions out of his or her home in East Machias, according to an alert issued Thursday by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least one client is known to be infected with the hepatitis C virus, and the Maine CDC urges anyone who has received a tattoo from an unlicensed artist in the area to contact a medical care provider for testing, vaccination and treatment information. The number of individuals exposed, and number of clients seen by the tattoo artist are unknown, according to the Maine CDC alert.

Receiving a tattoo from an unlicensed tattoo artist increases the risk of becoming infected with hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV through the use of unsterile needles. The risk is the same whether the artist uses a handheld needle or a motorized instrument to create the tattoo.

Most people infected with hepatitis B and hepatitis C have no initial symptoms but may become very ill over time. Possible symptoms as a result of liver damage include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored stools, joint pain and yellowing of the skin.

Many individuals infected with HIV have no immediate symptoms but experience flu-like symptoms two to four weeks following infection. Testing is the only way to determine whether infection has occurred. Prompt treatment is essential to managing these diseases.

More than 6 percent of people in Maine with hepatitis B and C reported receiving a tattoo from an unlicensed artist prior to becoming infected, according to the Maine CDC statement.

The Maine CDC issues the following recommendations for those considering getting a tattoo:

— Get vaccinated against hepatitis.

— Use only licensed tattoo artists who work in approved commercial studios or at an approved body-art show. The CDC does not approve tattoo artists who work out of their homes, and does not license apprentices.

— The body artist must post his or her license at the place of business.

— “Tattoo parties” at home residences are illegal.

— Maine law states that minors under the age of 18 are not allowed to get a tattoo even with parental permission.

All suspected and confirmed hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV cases should be reported immediately to the Maine Center for Disease Control at 1-800-821-5821.

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Featured photo by Matt Borowick, used under Creative Commons license 2.0.


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