Unlicensed Tattoo Artists In Virginia Arrested, Police Say Arrests Linked To Hepatitis C Cases

Police in Pulaski, Virginia, have arrested four tattooists for unlicensed tattooing as part of a crackdown on illegal tattooing after there had been an increase of hepatitis C in the area. Chief Gary Roche and the prosecuting attorneys say that they can’t remember ever charging unlicensed tattooists before. In Virginia, tattooing without a license is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. The tattooists that were arrested face hearings in August.

Police are still investigating to determine whether or not there may still be more unlicensed tattoo artists in the area. This local story becomes nationally pertinent because these arrests are reportedly the direct result of reports that there has been an outbreak of hepatitis C linked to at least one of the suspects.

Across Appalachia, the Midwest, and New England, hepatitis C has already been on the rise due to the opioid epidemic. In 2014, hepatitis C killed almost 20,000 Americans. Millions of Americans currently live with either acute or chronic hepatitis C, and most cases can reportedly be blamed on illegal IV drug use.

In May, the town police issued a public warning to the locals that they should only get tattooed by a licensed tattoo artist.

“If you have received a tattoo from an unlicensed tattoo artist, especially from someone in the Meadowview apartments area, you should contact the Virginia Department of Health or other medical facility and be tested for this disease,” the police statement stated, according to a report in the Roanoke Times.

In June, Pulaski police published another warning statement on Facebook.

“Our agency urges anyone that received a tattoo or body piercing from these locations to contact their local health department or other medical provider and get tested for Hepatitis C,” they wrote. “It is of critical importance that these individuals determine their health status for the sake of their continuing well-being and to prevent the spreading of this life impacting virus to their family members or significant others.”

Abigail Thomas, a licensed tattooer in the state, reported on Facebook that Virginia tattooists are licensed through the board of cosmetology.

“You can go to DPOR.virginia.gov and look up anyone’s name to find their licenses past and present. Sometimes there are even disciplinary actions attached to their licenses.”

In order to catch the scratchers, police kept an eye on Facebook for pictures of local tattoos. Some users tagged and named local tattoo artists. One of the tattooists had posted his pricing, another wrote that he was tattooing at his home. It was not immediately clear which artist was linked to the hepatitis outbreak or even how the link was causally established in light of the ongoing hepatitis C epidemic.

Though hepatitis C is usually transmitted by sharing needles during illegal drug use, WSET reported that in at least one Virginia town, illegal tattooing in which Universal Precautions were not met is to blame for an unspecified number of new hepatitis C cases.

Inquisitr wants to know if you ever get a tattoo from an artist who doesn’t use Universal Precautions?