The blood-borne disease can be transmitted in a number of ways, but information they are receiving has led them to narrow it down.
You might be surprised at the answer.
“I have 20 new cases just in January,” said Lynn Schrum, infectious disease nurse with the Belmont County Health Department. “Another 20 in February. And this is just Belmont County.”
Officials think this surge of Hepatitis C is coming from tattoos and piercings from unapproved places.
“You don’t want to do it in your neighbor’s garage,” said Schrum. “You need to go to an approved salon.”
“Some people will have a friend come over and tattoo them in the house, in the garage,” added Rich Lucas, environmental director with the health department. “Or in prison. And it’s not a good idea.”
They say they recently shut down a man who advertised online that he’ would come to your house and do your tattoo.
They say approved tattoo parlors will have a certificate in plain sight.
“You want to make sure you look for that framed certificate,” said Lucas. “And basically ask the tattoo artist questions. Make sure you see him wash his hands for at least 20 seconds before he starts. Make sure he opens everything up in front of you.”
“Needles should only be used once,” Shrum added. “Actually they like the ink to be used only once.”
They say Hepatitis C can have subtle symptoms.
“You can actually go for decades without knowing it,” said Schrum.
If left untreated, they say it can lead to liver cirrhosis, even liver cancer.
And Hepatitis C isn’t the only thing you can get from an unlicensed tattoo parlor.
“You can get a bacterial infection,” said Lucas. “You can get a virus, HIV and staph infection or bacterial infection.”
To recap, they urge people to make sure their tattoo artist is approved by their county health department.
And health officials nationwide urge all baby boomers–those born between 1945 and 1965–to get tested for Hepatitis C.