Notice sent on tattoo risks

Officials act after teens get infection

October 28, 2005|By BRADLEY OLSON | BRADLEY OLSON,SUN REPORTER

The Anne Arundel County Health Department sent a warning to public high school students this week after four teenagers contracted a rare and hard-to-treat skin infection while getting tattoos in a tattoo artist's home.

Frances Phillips, a county health official, said the department conducted an investigation after the four teenagers contracted methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, a bacterial skin infection resistant to most antibiotics. Two of the teenagers were hospitalized for several days before being released after the infections were treated.

Phillips declined to release the students' names or where they got the tattoos, pointing to privacy laws, but said the warning informed students and parents about the largely unregulated tattoo and body piercing industry in Maryland.

Practitioners aren't required to have licenses in Maryland, and their establishments aren't routinely inspected, Phillips said.

"It has been detected in the past in our county and in other counties," Phillips said. "It's a growing concern. ... It's not a disease that's reportable by law, but certainly when we do have an outbreak, we want to jump on it right away."

In Anne Arundel County, the infection has also been seen in post-operative patients with open wounds. Risk factors include poor hygiene and overcrowding, but when four students turned up with the same infection, heath officials suspected another cause.

"Because the students all had the infection, that raised a concern to us first and foremost for other students in the community," she said. bradley.olson@baltsun.com

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