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Infections From Tattoos Spark FDA Warnings

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, August 23, 2012

"Had this link not been established, you would still have this particular index case as well as others with infections that persisted," Byron S. Kennedy, MD, deputy director of the Monroe County Health Department, said in an interview Wednesday.

Unlike previous reports of tattoo infections that may have resulted from the use by tattoo artists of contaminated water to dilute the inks they had already purchased, this outbreak appears to have been caused by contaminants that went into the ink before it was shipped from its manufacturer's supply in Arizona.

Additionally, this strain of bacteria is hard to diagnose, and therefore health officials said, many tattoo recipients may have mysterious rashes that are going without treatment. Even after the infections are identified, they can be difficult to resolve, often requiring a course of antibiotics for several months.

Kennedy says he submitted the article to the NEJM because "it was clear this is a potentially a growing problem, and because tattooing has become more popular," with an estimated one in five U.S. adults now sporting skin ink.

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