Thursday, January 17, 2013

Online tattoo and piercing kits could be spreading Hepatitis C

Online tattoo and piercing kits could be spreading Hepatitis C

TATTOO and body piercing parties could be breeding grounds for hepatitis C, a disease that now kills more Australians than HIV/AIDS. 

Hep C could be spread through 'tattoo parties' 
Almost 250,000 Australians live with hep C
A major report released yesterday calls hep C the "silent pandemic" and warns its impact is "set to grow dramatically".

Hep C is a blood-borne illness, with most cases spread through people sharing dirty needles to inject illicit drugs.

But Hepatitis Australia warns that people buying tattooing and piercing kits online could be unwittingly spreading the virus.

President Stuart Loveday said more research was needed, but that they do know the risky behaviours are increasing.

"Overwhelmingly (it's transmitted) when people share equipment used to inject illicit drugs. The data around that is pretty good, pretty strong, but what we don't have data on is people who get hep C through other means," he said.
"We do know that tattooing is incredibly popular, becoming more so, body piercing is very popular and there are now online kits.

"So you've got this situation where people are getting involved in tattooing parties and body piercing parties among themselves.

"They're doing some good stuff but they don't have the knowledge or the equipment to sterilise the equipment."

Tattoo and body piercing kits are widely available online for about $100 or less. Many of them are advertised as being "for beginners".

Mr Loveday said hep C was 10 times more infectious than HIV and that it's impossible to tell if someone has it.

"In the early days virtually no one has outward signs or symptoms. Nobody feels sick," he said.
"They don't go a jaundice yellow colour."

Without treatment, hep C causes liver damage, and can cause liver cancer, liver failure, and ultimately death.

According to The Silent Pandemic: Tackling Hepatitis C with Policy Innovation, published yesterday by the Economist Intelligence Unit and supported by Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, hardly anyone gets treatment.

Report contributor Jack Wallace from La Trobe University said stigma meant people didn't want to admit to having the infection, or to get tested or treated.

"It is estimated that more than 225,000 Australians are infected with the hepatitis C virus," he said.

"Most know that they have the virus, yet only 2 per cent receive treatment every year."

Mr Loveday said new treatments offered a high chance of cure, and said Hepatitis Australia hoped for them to be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to make them more accessible.

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