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Tainted Tattoo Ink Led to Skin Infection Outbreak
Date:8/23/2012

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 22 (HealthDay News) -- A recent outbreak of skin infections among 19 tattoo customers in the Rochester, N.Y., area was likely caused by a contamination of the premixed and prepackaged tattoo ink purchased by a single tattoo artist, and not due to any unhygienic practices of the facility itself, investigators have determined.

The ink had been contaminated during production with an uncommon type of bacteria called Mycobacterium chelonae or M. chelonae, researchers found. As a result, during the fall and winter of 2011, otherwise healthy men and women developed raised and persistent rashes at the site of their tattoos within three weeks of their inking procedures in New York.

Investigations in several other states have confirmed similar infections in Washington, Iowa and Colorado.

"Given the apparent popularity of tattoos, we advise people who have gotten a tattoo and who then develop a rash to not ignore it, but rather be evaluated by a physician because many of these infections can become serious and will not resolve without proper treatment," said study lead author Dr. Byron Kennedy, health director of the Monroe County Department of Public Health, in Rochester.

Such cases raise concerns that improper ink production could undermine patrons' safety even when tattoo parlors adhere to best practices and standards.

"Public health officials don't have good data on how common tattoo-related infections are because in many states tattooing remains an unregulated activity," Kennedy said.

"Given that our investigation led to the discovery of outbreaks in several other states, it seems reasonable to conclude that such infections, while not common, are not rare," he added.

The findings were published online Aug. 22 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that roughly
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