Bacterial Infections in Rutland County may be related to Tattoos

For Immediate Release: October 25, 2007
Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON – The Vermont Department of Health, together with the Secretary of State’s Office, is investigating three cases of the bacterial infection known as MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus) that may be related to tattoos performed by an unlicensed practitioner in the Rutland area.

MRSA infection is resistant to treatment with the usual antibiotics.

“Our job is to stop the spread of infection and make sure that anyone at risk gets appropriate treatment,” said Cort Lohff, MD, state epidemiologist at the Health Department. “While MRSA infections occur most often in hospitals or health care facilities, MRSA is increasingly seen in the community setting.”

Known as community-associated MRSA, these infections are usually spread through direct skin-to-skin contact or by touching objects or surfaces that have come into contact with someone else’s infection – for example, used towels or bandages.

These infections can best be prevented through good hygiene:

MRSA skin infections can be treated with antibiotics but, if left untreated, can be serious and require hospitalization and surgery.

Tattooists and body piercers are regulated by the Office of Professional Regulation, a division of the Secretary of State’s Office. By state law, tattooing should only be performed in licensed shops that are subject to inspection and strict sanitation and sterilization requirements.

A similar outbreak of MRSA occurred in 2005 among five young people in the Middlebury area, all of whom had tattoos from an unlicensed tattooist.

The Health Department has notified Rutland area health care providers of the outbreak to help facilitate diagnosis and treatment.

For more information about MRSA, visit the Health Department’s website at: http://healthvermont.gov

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