Nasty Tattoo Infection Linked to Bizarre Cause

Health Check 35

tattoo infectionI hate when I hear about some new and horrible way of contracting some new and horrible disease or infection or parasite. Like the time a friend of mine told me how her son got scabies from a sandbox. A sandbox! You're not supposed to get scabies from a sandbox!

I had the same reaction when I heard about the recent outbreak of a rare infection ... caused by tainted tattoo ink. Tattoo ink! You're not supposed to get a rare infection from dirty tattoo ink! (Dirty tattoo needles, possibly.) But it can happen: At least 40 people in 4 different states developed red, bubbly rashes after getting new designs with one thing in common -- the same brand of tattoo ink.

As it turned out, the distilled water used to dilute the ink contained the rare bacteria Mycobacterium chelonae, a relative of the tuberculosis bug which lives in soil and water. Gross!

This is no easy-to-treat rash, either. Some patients have to take antibiotics for as long as 4 months before the angry red bumps go away; others end up needing to have the entire area surgically removed. Yikes. No wonder the CDC issued an alert.

This is disturbing news to me on more than one level. First, I have tattoos and will probably get more at some point -- how do I know whether or not the ink used is bug-free? And second, does this mean we need to worry about distilled water? Not that I can think of a reason I would need to use distilled water off the top of my head, but even so.

For now, the only advice available is to go straight to the doctor if you develop a rash like this after getting a tattoo, because you WILL need treatment (possibly quite a lot of treatment).

See, I hate when I hear about some new and horrible way of contracting some new and horrible disease or infection or parasite.

Have you ever heard of an infection from tattoo ink?

 

Image via Monroe County Department of Public Health

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