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Tattoo, improper sterilization. Chance of HIV and hepatitis C?

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Practicing since : 1997
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Good morning doctors,

On 27th of this month I got tattoo at Thailand. My concern is HIV and Hepatitis C.I m vaccinated for hepatitis A and B as well. The tattoo was done with sterile needles opened in front of me, gloves where used at all the time by tattoo artist and color was taken from big bottles in new small color wells and dropped in trash along with needles after tattooing. My concern is because I have not seen the guy using autoclave machine for tattoo machine (gun) itself and tattoo tube (grip).He was using alcohol after he shaved my leg before tattooing and I think that he put some alcohol on machine and tube before he started. He was using brand new bandages to put on my leg latter. I was talking to him before we started and he said that he wash his equipment in water and soap before using every time but he never mentioned autoclave machine. Two days after tattooing I experienced low grade fever for couple hours and can be easy from something else not from tattooing because I was swimming a lot in the sea before tattooing and could be just cold. What are the odds to get infected in this manner and what is the earliest time for me to find out am I infected or not with one of the blood borne diseases. The tattoo studio was closed at 10 hours before I came because he is working from 17:00 to 05:00 and I got the tattoo at 19:00.I read that Hep C stays alive outside exposed to environment approximately 16 hours. If I new all this before I would never do that with out autoclave and proper sterilization.

Thank you so much
Posted Mon, 23 Apr 2012 in HIV and AIDS
Answered by Dr. Vaibhav Banait 16 hours later

Thanks for posting your query.

I understand your health concern.

The risk associated with transmission of HCV and HIV is real but small. It is further reduced when disposable needles are used.

Currently, HCV is predominantly transmitted by means of percutaneous exposure to infected blood. In developed countries, most new HCV infections are related to intravenous drug abuse (IVDA).

HCV may also be transmitted by means of acupuncture, tattooing, and sharing razors.

But you can never be sure, it is worth getting yourself tested for HCV and HIV after 2-4 weeks of the incidence with Nucleic acid test, if the tattooing is done in a high prevalence area.

I would suggest you to get yourself tested after 21 days of getting the tattoo done.

Wishing you good health.

Dr. Vaibhav Banait
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Tattoo, improper sterilization. Chance of HIV and hepatitis C? 38 hours later
Thank you for advice ,could you please explain what kind of test is that .Is it PCR or?
What is accuracy of that test and do I need retest on 3 or 6 month if I get negative result after testing that you have adviced me

Answered by Dr. Vaibhav Banait 21 hours later

Polymerase chair reaction (PCR) test is fairly sensitive to detect 'HCV' when it is done after three to four weeks after exposure.

As you mentioned that tattooing was done with new sterile needle, the risk of transmission is as such very low. You may need to repeat the test after say two to six months when the risk of transmission is high as in needle prick from known HCV positive person. I recommended repeat testing only in such cases.

Since yours not a high risk exposure, repeat testing would not be required.

Vaibhav Banait
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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