Times of India (04.02.13)
Doctors in Chennai, India, are seeing an increase in hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in young people, many of whom contracted the disease while being tattooed or pierced. The doctors are concerned about the conditions in the many tattoo parlors rising up all over the city. Dr. R. Surendran, gastroenterologist at Apollo Hospitals, explained that hepatitis C is usually contracted by means of contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person. Surendran stated that most of the hospital’s HCV patients have a history of using unsterile needles. He added that injecting drugs has gained recent widespread attention; however, people rarely see tattooing and piercing as sources of infection. Surendran said that not all patients with HCV have a history of using needles.
According to Dr. George M. Chandy, gastroenterologist at MIOT hospitals, patients may not show any HCV symptoms for a long time, but the earlier they are diagnosed and treated, the better. After many years, the infection may result in the liver being permanently scarred. Previously, young people went to Thailand, Malaysia, and Goa to get tattooed, but now they can be accommodated in the city.
Staff at reputable tattoo parlors may take the necessary precautions, but smaller places may have unhygienic conditions. Naveen Kumar, founder of Irezumi, which has four studios in the state, noted that tattoo parlors do not need a license. Anyone with needles and artistic skills can be a tattoo artist. He stated that there are only eight registered parlors in the city. At the established parlors, a tattoo can cost between 2,000 and a couple of lakhs, while it can be done for 25 lakhs at less reputable parlors.