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Infectious Diseases

Hepatitis B and tattoos

11/18/2004

Question:

Should a person getting a tattoo get a hepatitis B shot prior to the tattoo?

Answer:

Sharing of needles that are potentially contaminated with blood is one way by which hepatitis B can be transmitted. The tattooing process uses needles that are likely to become contaminated with blood. Most states and public health jurisdictions in the United States have laws against re-using tattoo needles; needles should not be re-used from one customer to the next. Most legitimate tattooing businesses use new needles on each new customer; however, you should always ask the business what they do about needles. In fact, it would not be unreasonable to ask the tattooist to demonstrate to you that a new needle is being used (these should be available in individually wrapped packages that you would ask be opened in front of you). Tattooing in the home with home implements should be avoided; the ability to assure a clean and uncontaminated setting may be difficult to do. Also, there may be re-use of previously used needles with tattooing that is performed in the home setting.

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Response by:

Stephen   Kralovic, MD Stephen Kralovic, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati