Can your teen get Hepatitis C (i.e., HCV) by getting a tattoo?
In other countries, HCV infection has been associated with folk medicine practices, tattooing, body piercing, and commercial barbering. However, in the United States, case-control studies have reported no association between HCV infection and these types of practices. In addition, the CDC identified patients with acute Hepatitis C during the past 15 years who denied a history of injecting-drug use. Of these patients, only 1% reported a history of tattooing or ear piercing, and none reported a history of acupuncture. Among patients who were injecting-drug users, frequency of tattooing and ear piercing also was uncommon (3%).
Although any percutaneous exposure (i.e., penetration of the skin) has the potential for transferring infectious blood and potentially transmitting blood borne pathogens (i.e., HBV, HCV, or HIV), no data exist in the United States indicating that persons with exposures to tattooing alone are at increased risk of HCV infection. Further studies are needed to determine if these types of exposures and settings in which they occur (e.g., correctional institutions, unregulated commercial establishments), are risk factors for HCV infection in the United States.
Thomas J. Berger, Ph.D.; Former Human Development & Family Studies Specialist, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension
Last update: Thursday, February 21, 2013