Information & Guides
Hepatitis C - Preventing transmission when Tattooing and Piercing
What is Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the most common, chronic blood-borne infection in the United States, with nearly 4 million Americans (or 2% of the population) infected. The hepatitis C virus can result in a swelling of the liver known as hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is slightly more common among men than women, and while it affects people of all ages, it is most commonly found among those aged 20-39.
Hepatitis C infects the liver, which removes waste products and worn-out cells from the blood. If untreated, hepatitis C can lead to scarring of the liver (known as cirrhosis), cancer of the liver and, in some cases, even death.
The hepatitis C virus is spread through contaminated blood. Hepatitis C is most commonly spread through intravenous drug use, as users often share needles that are contaminated with the virus.
Understanding Hepatitis C Transmission
Hepatitis C is a bloodborne virus that can lead to severe liver diseases. It's vital to grasp how it spreads to implement effective prevention strategies. Hepatitis C primarily spreads through contact with infected blood. While it's less common in tattoo and body piercing settings, understanding the potential risks is crucial. Tattooing and body piercing may transmit hepatitis C if dye or needles contaminated with HCV are reused. Hepatitis C is often referred to as a “silent threat” since a majority of people have no symptoms for many years after they become infected. In fact, more than 70 percent of HCV-infected people have no idea that they are infected.
Symptoms of HCV may include:
• Loss of appetite
• Dark urine
• Nausea/stomach pain
• Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes).
Risks in Tattooing and Piercing
Tattooists and body piercers have unique exposure risks due to the nature of their work. This includes accidental contact with clients' blood, equipment, and surfaces. Recognizing these risks is the first step toward adopting practices that mitigate potential transmission.
Implementing Infection Control Practices
Universal precautions are your allies in infection prevention. Always treat all blood and bodily fluids as potentially infectious. Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, aprons, and face shields to safeguard against exposure.
Prioritizing Sanitization and Disinfection
Sterilization and proper cleaning of equipment are paramount. Use autoclaves or other approved methods to sterilize reusable instruments. Regularly clean surfaces and workstations with hospital-grade disinfectants to minimize contamination risks.
Embracing Single-Use Items
Opt for disposable tools whenever possible. Single-use items, such as needles and ink cups, reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Ensure proper disposal methods to maintain a clean and safe workspace.
Contaminated surfaces and objects can lead to transmission. Minimize the risk by avoiding contact between clean and contaminated items. Implement effective waste disposal methods to prevent exposure.
Screening Clients and Educating on Aftercare
Thoroughly screen clients for potential health risks. Ask about medical history to identify individuals who might carry infections. Equally important is educating clients about proper aftercare to minimize infection risks during the healing process.
Handling Blood Cleanup
Accidental bleeding can occur during tattooing or piercing. Have a plan in place to address blood spills promptly. Use appropriate disinfectants and wear protective gear to clean and sanitize affected areas.
Vaccinations and Emergency Response
Ensure you and your staff are up-to-date on vaccinations, particularly hepatitis B. This protects against a potential infection source. Have an emergency response plan in place to handle accidental injuries and exposures.
Commitment to Ongoing Learning
As a tattooist or body piercer, your journey is a continuous learning experience. Stay updated on industry guidelines, attend workshops, and seek educational resources to enhance your infection control knowledge.
The Final Word
Preventing the spread of infections, including Hepatitis C, is a shared responsibility of tattooists, body piercers, and clients. By adhering to best practices, embracing infection control protocols, and maintaining a commitment to safety, you're not only cultivating your artistic skills but also creating a secure and welcoming environment for all. Your dedication to infection prevention underscores your professionalism and ensures a positive experience for everyone involved in your creative journey.