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MRSA Skin Infections in Three States Linked to Tattoos

Unsafe tattoo practices result in 44 cases of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus

FRIDAY, June 23 (HealthDay News) -- Forty-four people in the United States who received tattoos from 13 unlicensed practitioners in three states have contracted community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA) skin infections, according to a report in the June 23 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Theresa Long, M.D., of the Columbus Health Department in Columbus, Ohio, and colleagues report that six CA-MRSA outbreaks occurred in Vermont, Ohio and Kentucky in 2004 and 2005, most likely spread by dirty equipment, poor hand hygiene and infection control.

Thirty-four cases involved a boil or abscess positive for CA-MRSA surfacing near a recent tattoo four to 22 days after the procedure; 10 cases involved people closely associated with a recently tattooed MRSA patient. Seventy-three percent of patients were men; 63 percent were white.

Sixteen infections cleared up after being surgically drained; 24 improved with drainage and oral antimicrobial drugs. But four patients had to be hospitalized and put on intravenous antimicrobials. The seven tattooists who could be tracked down told investigators they did not disinfect equipment, change gloves between clients or properly clean their hands. Three had served jail time.

"Persons considering a tattoo should be aware of the potential for CA-MRSA infection and should only use the services of a licensed tattooist who follows proper infection-control procedures," the authors write.

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