Do tattoos cause hepatitis? The risks of tourists acquiring hepatitis as a result of getting tattoos, piercings or pedicures while abroad has recently been emphasised by an Australian health organisation
Helen Tyrrell, the CEO of Hepatitis Australia, warned in an interview with The Courier Mail that
“any activity in which the skin is pierced can lead to infection with hepatitis – and, yes, that can include pedicures, tattoos and piercings, and even getting dental work done abroad.”
A rise in the number of Australians acquiring hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV) is predicted on the back of research which shows that holidaymakers have become increasingly likely to participate in activities abroad (such as tattooing) that heighten their risk of contracting the viruses.
Disease up to ten times more prevalent abroad
According to Tyrrell, the risk of acquiring hepatitis is far greater in certain popular holiday destinations than in lower-risk countries such as Australia and the UK:
“In places like Bali, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, hepatitis C can be nine or 10 times more prevalent than at home, and this coupled with generally lower standards of equipment sterilisation in the average tattoo parlour or where you get pedicures can greatly increase the risk of infection”.
Tattoos have been increasing in popularity over the past few years and they are no longer just associated with bikers or the rebellious youth.
The “hipster” movement has helped to open up body art to people of all ages and from all walks of life; even the Prime Minister’s wife has a tattoo!
But the mainstream appeal of inking up comes with potential dangers, such as hepatitis, and this should be considered by anyone using a tattoo parlour abroad.
What is hepatitis and do tattoos cause hepatitis?
Hepatitis is essentially a medical condition which results in the inflammation of the liver. There are several variants of the condition and hepatitis B and C can be contracted through blood to blood contact, which is why there is a potential danger of catching it as a result of unsterilised tattooing needles.
There have also been cases of hepatitis transmission as a result of surgical error, leading to medical negligence claims, although this is rare.
Whilst there is a vaccination for hepatitis B, one does not currently exist for C. If not treated, chronic hepatitis C can sometimes cause scarring of the liver and even lead to liver failure and cancer.
The good news is that new treatments are on the horizon.