Bad Water in Ink Blamed for Tattoo Infections

Nasty infection can take months to clear up, or require surgery
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 23, 2012 1:00 AM CDT
A tattooed arm is covered with a red, bubbly rash in this photo provided by the Monroe County Department of Public Health.   (Monroe County Department of Public Health.)
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(Newser) – An outbreak of nasty, hard-to-treat tattoo infections has been traced not to dirty needles, but to tainted ink, reports NBC. At least 40 people in four states contracted the rare infection, which was caused by a bacteria related to tuberculosis which lives in soil and water. Investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention traced the bug to an ink maker who had used distilled water to dilute his product. After the CDC issued an alert, the bug was found in several more brands of tattoo ink.

A CDC epidemiologist says that companies sometimes use distilled water to dilute inks—but the bug survives in the water even when alcohol or witch hazel are added. People who develop a rash after getting a tattoo should consult a doctor, as the infection in question can take more than four months to eradicate with antibiotics—and some patients end up needing to have the whole area surgically removed, warns the CDC.

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